The BC vaccine card and verifier app are simple but effective tools to fight the pandemic

Yellow background with a QR code on top. One hand holding an ID and another hand holding a phone with a QR card and green check-mark on the screen.
Digital vaccine cards are a quick and easy way to check people’s vaccination status. SCREENSHOT: Government of BC

By Rastko Koprivica, SFU Student

On August 23, the BC government announced that proof of vaccination will be mandatory for “people attending certain social and recreational settings and events.” The new proof of vaccination, called the BC vaccine card, can easily be obtained through the BC government’s website. Globally, there have been concerns about digital vaccine cards, but the BC vaccine card and its verifier app are working great so far. They have the potential to move us towards stage four of the province’s restart plan because they are designed to both protect privacy and be user-friendly.

Businesses have to use the verifier app to check their customer’s vaccination status. I personally tested the app using the source code posted on GitHub, which “hosts collections of code for projects.” 

On the user interface front, the app is fairly simple. After launching the app, the user is greeted with a reminder to allow permission for the app to access the phone camera in order to scan the QR codes of vaccine cards. Upon scanning the card, a colour-coded result appears with the name of the person on top — green for fully vaccinated and blue for partially vaccinated. The name can then be verified using a secondary ID such as a driver’s license to prove that the QR code belongs to the person.

On the technical side, this is where things get interesting. The app can function without the internet. It makes no contact to government servers to verify vaccine cards in a cloud database. Instead, it reads the QR code which includes name, date of birth, immunization dates, vaccine brands, and immunization provider, to determine eligibility for vaccination status. Not requiring an internet connection is great for accessibility since the app will theoretically always be able to work.

Since an internet connection isn’t required for verification purposes, the government will not be able to track what venues and businesses people go to. This also lowers the risk of a hacker intercepting personal information because of unsecured Wi-Fi. 

People may speculate that anyone can make their own QR code and bypass the need to get vaccinated to enter certain spaces. However, all vaccine card QR codes follow the SMART Health Card standard. This means it alerts the user of the app of any false QR codes, so people cannot forge them to get into restricted spaces.

The only issue I have with the process is there is no app to store the vaccine QR codes on mobile, unlike in other jurisdictions like Quebec or Manitoba. The BC government suggests the public save the QR code to their camera roll. This is tiresome since people would have to scroll through their camera roll or carry a piece of paper. The app should have a designated space to save the code so that everyone can easily access them.

Nevertheless, the BC vaccine card is turning out to be a great motivator for people to get vaccinated, with vaccine registrations climbing with the implementation of the app. It is a fast, easy, and privacy-friendly app that will help us to leave the pandemic behind us.