BREAKING NEWS: Announcing the Launch of a Nationwide Vaccine Verification System
Andy breaks the news about a new nationwide digital vaccine verification system to be formally announced next week. Andy talks with the system’s architect, Paul Meyer, and California’s Chief Technology Innovation Officer, Rick Klau. They discuss why the federal government isn’t creating its own verification system, how Californians have responded to the state’s Digital Vaccine Record, and where you can get a digital record of your COVID-19 vaccine status right now.
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Check out these resources from today’s episode:
- Learn more about the SMART Health Cards Global Forum on October 28: https://events.zoom.us/ev/ANEak-EndgU6srtMF5CNSahdECUM5qwpkv1uC6ic-qo3OXjjxlb4j5Bt8Zjgahjp_Ti2Tn4
- Check out the CommonPass: https://commonpass.org/
- Here’s more on the slipping poll numbers for governors who attack vaccine mandates: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/10/17/governors-covid-vaccine-mandates-approval-516112
- Read more about the plan to let fully vaccinated travelers back into the US starting November 8: https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/15/politics/us-border-travel-restrictions-november-8/index.html
- Find a COVID-19 vaccine site near you: https://www.vaccines.gov/
- Order Andy’s book, Preventable: The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics, and Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250770165
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Andy Slavitt, Paul Meyer, Rick Klau
Speaker 1 00:00
The law Governor DeSantis signed prevents government agencies or businesses from requiring people to show proof of vaccination. The law which went to effect last month, that’s a $5,000 fine for each violation. Nonetheless, Leon County commissioner Bill Proctor was shocked this week, when Florida’s health department hit the county with a $3.5 million fine for requiring it’s more than 700 employees to be vaccinated.
Andy Slavitt 00:51
Welcome to IN THE BUBBLE. This is your host, Andy Slavitt. We have a very edgy and topical show today. And we’re going to go right at the heart of the matter, we’re going to right at the heart of the matter about why people are not required to, yes, demonstrate that they’ve been vaccinated to do certain activities. Now, this has taken on a lot of controversy. And there’s also a lot of technical stuff involved. So the bulk of the show, the interview is going to be about the launch of a vaccine credentialing initiative in the US that I’m going to be co-chairing that happens on October 28. And you’re going to hear from the state of California, and a person named Paul Meyer at the Commons Project, who’s been pushing this forward. So you’re gonna hear about that you’re gonna hear about how it works, you can hear about the substance. First, let me clarify what we’re talking about. What we’re talking about is that when you walk in to a bar, or restaurant or school or other crowded place, we’re going to be around other people, that you have something in your phone, which allows you to demonstrate that you’ve been vaccinated.
Andy Slavitt 01:51
That’s the kind of thing that they do in many countries around the world. And as I’ll talk about with our guests today, I just left a country after visiting that had that kind of program in place, and it worked great. It worked great. But you know, somehow there has become this narrative out there. And let’s be clear about the narrative. What the narrative says is that anything the government does to require something to happen is in fact, part of some government overreach. That is the equivalent of totalitarianism. I mean, there have been outright statements by Republican Congress people not to put a political label on it, who’ve said, first, they’re going to come and require you to be vaccinated, then they’re going to come for your guns, and steal your Bible. Now, I know that there’s a very obvious slippery slope between saving people’s lives and mass murder. I mean, we all know how it starts. You want people to be healthy, and you want people not to infect other people. Next thing, you know, you’re putting them in gas chambers. That happens all the time.
Andy Slavitt 02:50
Give me a break. You can say that about anything. But here’s what’s really interesting to me. Is it the question of is the public buying it? It’s primarily coming from three governors, the governor of Florida, Rick DeSantis, the governor of Texas Greg Abbott, and the governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem. Let’s take a look at how this is actually playing out reality is that if you look at the approval ratings, for how governors are handling the pandemic, something really interesting emerges. In states with vaccine requirements 52% of the public rates the governor highly for the management of the pandemic, in states without vaccine requirements 42% of the public rates the governor highly for their handling of the pandemic. And with states that have barred vaccine requirements 36% of the public supports the way the handling of the pandemic. So this is not a narrative that is supported largely by the public. There’s a 16-point difference between the people who are out there actively trying to protect the public, and people who are trying to prohibit the public from being protected.
Andy Slavitt 04:09
So we have gotten ourselves, I think, in a position where we are scared of the loudest voices. You could go on to Apple podcasts right now. And look at many of the top podcasts a lot of them are from names of people that I’ve never heard of. They are put forward by conservative media. And you can scroll 10 or 12 episodes and you can find an episode about the evils and the totalitarian approach of the government for requiring vaccines. That is a view that they have. Now, I’m not gonna say that they’re not a title to that view. They’re entitled The view they’re entitled share that view. It is a great thing about this country that we can have this debate, but it can’t go on. answered. And it is not the majority view, just because people shouted loudly, does not mean that more people think it’s true. It’s just not the case. More people want to be protected with common sense protections.
Andy Slavitt 05:15
Now, does that always work in this country, and more people want common sense gun laws, we don’t have them where people want to do a lot of things in this country that don’t get supported. But that requires us and requires our political leaders to have the courage to get this to happen. And we can no longer use it as an excuse, that we don’t know how to technically make it work. Because as you’re about to hear, we got the state of California and a great guest, on who are both going to talk about how this actually works, and how if we want it, if we wanted to have a system of vaccine credentials, this country, we can have it tomorrow, it’s a matter of wanting it. So Rick Klau is the Chief Technology Innovation Officer for the state of California, Paul Meyer, the CEO of the commons project, who’s launching this initiative. Let’s welcome them to IN THE BUBBLE.
Andy Slavitt 06:12
Well, thanks for joining me today. You know, I just returned from a trip to France. I’ll tell you about all that later. But the part that I think is interesting for the purposes of this conversation, is that anytime I went to a train, an airplane, a restaurant, a bar, which I admit, I went to one or two of those, or any other location, they stopped and asked me for it with something called my sanitary card. And what they really wanted was an RFID that I had downloaded to my phone when I went to France, which indicated that I had been vaccinated. And, you know, it took about 10 seconds. And in the few weeks that they’ve been doing it there, it was very routine. And you know, that for nothing cases and in France are down at 85%. They don’t require people to get vaccinated. But if you want to go participate in public life, they want to make sure you’re not infecting people. So what we’re gonna talk today a little bit about whether or not something like that can happen in the us with some great guests. Paul Meyer, is someone who’s been in the background over the last number of months spearheading an initiative to bring that capability to the US. And Rick Klau, it’s with the state of California, who’s actually as many people might know, has begun to roll out capabilities here. So I might start with you, Rick, and ask what it is that the state of California has introduced. And how’s it working?
Rick Klau 07:39
Thanks, Andy. What we started with back in June was something we called very simply the Digital Vaccine Record. And it was intended, really as nothing more than a backup digital copy to your CDC card. The expectation was, as we were reopening the state in June, not everyone would be walking around with their CDC card. And we assumed that there may be some bars, restaurants, etc, sort of similar to your friends experience that might want to know that their patrons had been vaccinated. And if the only way they could prove that was with a CDC card that someone might have lost, might have left at home, then we’d be stuck in a in a challenging situation where patrons couldn’t show they’d been vaccinated, businesses wouldn’t be able to verify it. So we launched in mid-June, Digital Vaccine Record. It is based on the smart health cards framework you’ll hear more about in a moment. And it is both a human readable copy of your CDC card. But most importantly, it’s a QR code that is formatted using the smart health card spec that contains the underlying vaccination record, signed by the state of California so that someone reading it with a compatible scanner can see that it is in fact, an authentic record in the California immunization registry, and that it hasn’t been modified
Andy Slavitt 09:08
And so what do we know about its use so far?
Rick Klau 09:11
Well, we launched in June and really had no way to predict whether anyone would use it, whether it would be interesting. There was some initial interest. In the first couple of weeks of June, we delivered about a million digital vaccine records in those first couple of weeks. And then by mid-July, organically it started becoming a thing that bars and restaurants themselves were telling their patrons to use. And usage really picked up in that middle to end of July, as some of the vaccine mandates started kicking in, both for employers for restaurants and public gatherings. We’ve now delivered in four months; we’ve delivered about six and a half almost 7 million digital vaccine records to California residents.
Andy Slavitt 09:58
And just to be clear unlike, well, let me let me ask you to clarify for me, we know that in New York City, there’s actually a requirement like in France, that if you’re going to go to a gym or a restaurant bar establishment, that you be vaccinated and have this level of proof, are there any of those requirements in California? Or is it all happening on a sort of voluntary basis, at establishments, taking your point about mandated employers as a as a separate thing?
Rick Klau 10:28
Yeah, a little bit of both. I think initially, back in July, it was entirely private. I remember having a conversation with the guy that runs the San Francisco bar owners Alliance, they have 500 bars in the city of San Francisco. I was thanking him for his leadership. And he said, it’s not leadership, it’s, this is the only way I know how to keep my bartenders healthy. So we’re going to put a sign on the front door of our bars. And say, if you want to come indoors, you need to show us you’ve been vaccinated. Over time, what you’ve seen in a number of counties, my own in Contra Costa County in the East Bay, San Francisco, a number of others in the Bay Area, LA County just imposed some vaccine mandates as well, that those increasingly are taking effect and then are dependent on the data, that if the counties hit a certain level of transmission of case rates, etc, then they may end up removing those vaccine mandates. But for now, I’d say for most of the populous counties in California, there’s some version of a requirement that you need to show that you’ve been vaccinated for gatherings of over a certain number of people. They’ll vary by county, but in general, that’s going to be the case.
Andy Slavitt 11:49
Okay, well, I want to come back and ask you to bet on how the public has reacted and, and what can push back yet, but I want to, I want to go to Paul. And I might ask by Paul, if you could start just by describing a little bit about how this works, and maybe a bit how you’re set up. I think it’s important that people know that you’re part of a nonprofit, you know, who’s making money on this, and how all that works. But more fundamentally, just in layman’s terms, how it works for someone who’s been vaccinated to get their credentials, and how you see this potentially as a tool for the country.
Paul Meyer 12:24
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Andy. And great that Rick already explained all of the basics of it. So I’ll start back at your question. The Commons Project foundation is a nonprofit organization we set up almost three years ago now out of the Rockefeller Foundation, really with the idea of building a kind of a nonprofit entity that can build and operate digital services for the common good. Our thinking was that there are certain digital standards and services that really need to be operated as with common utilities, and, you know, not everything that’s technological should come through just big tech companies and startups. That was the idea behind the Commons Project. But before COVID, we had built and launched a platform called Commonhealth. For people to collect, store and share their health data on Android phones, these are Android equivalent to Apple Health. And then when the pandemic happened, we realized there was going to be a whole new reason for people to collect and need to be able to access and share their health data. And we launched a platform called common pass, which is one of the early health pass platforms deployed around the world. But we realized this is what led to the smart health card standard that California implementation is based on, we realized that there needed to be some standardization for the way that health data was structured and secured, so that it can be relied upon in a tamper proof, in tamper proof way.
Paul Meyer 13:39
And we convened some great partners like Microsoft and Apple and Mayo Clinic and Mitre and others, and created something called the vaccine credential initiative. And we create the standard calls for health cards, and really is again, it’s simplistically, it’s just a standard format for taking a piece of health data like the vaccination record, and putting it in a QR code. But doing it in such a way that it can’t be tampered with. We actually in conjunction with California, when we launched something called the smart health card verifier app, which is a free app that entities can use to scan one of the smart health card records and check two things. One is that a valid smart health card hasn’t been tampered with, in other words, and two, was it issued by a trusted source, i.e. cannot be relied upon. And so that’s really how it’s working, kind of in practice are people using this smart health verifier app. They’re also building the verification into things like their, you know, kind of back to work systems for employers, you know, airlines are checking these things. Border agencies, actually the government of Singapore last week reopened travel to Singapore, requiring that Americans and Canadians traveling to Singapore have a smart health card from an issuer in the common trust network. To be able to qualify, to be able to travel to Singapore.
Andy Slavitt 15:02
So how many Americans today have access to a smart health card?
Paul Meyer 15:07
Approximately probably closing in about 150 million. And because there are different ways, right? So I mean, Rick just mentioned, there were 30 some odd million Californians have access, almost 7 million, they’ve already gotten them. The state of New York has making these available. The state of Virginia, the state of Louisiana, the State of Hawaii, or about 15 more states that are kind of either about to or you know, kind of in the process of doing it, all the big pharmacy chains, Walgreens, Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Albertsons, they are also making smart health cards available to the individuals that they vaccinated. Thanks to the work of Epic and Cerner, the big two, you know, electronic health record companies. Many big health systems are making smart health cards available through their patient portals. So when states and pharmacies and hospitals, it’s pretty, pretty significant.
Andy Slavitt 16:32
So Paul walk me through this. So let’s say I got vaccinated at a local CVS. And I’ve got the CDC card, and I want to get a digital card. What do I do?
Paul Meyer 16:42
You got a couple options; you can go to CVS website. And if you got vaccinated CVS, you can download your vaccination record in digital form, from the CVS website, and that will be formatted as a smart health card. If you live in California, Rick, you want to explain what Californians do?
Rick Klau 17:02
Yeah, it’s very straightforward. You go to a website, maintained by the Department of Public Health, you enter in information that matches what’s already in the registry. So your name, your date of birth, and then the cell phone or email address that you would have used when you signed up for your vaccine appointment. And we will return to you a link that gives you the access to your digital vaccine record. If you’re accessing it on a mobile device, on iOS, it will prompt you to save on Apple Health, if you’re on the most recent version of iOS 15.1 is in beta will also save it into your wallet directly. And if you’re on an Android device, it will save it to Google pay. It will prompt you if you would like to save to Google pay, or you can take a screenshot of it.
Andy Slavitt 17:52
Okay. So I’ve tried to give people the most general advice possible. If you’re out there, and you’ve been vaccinated? How do you find out if your State offers this? And or should you just contact the place where you got vaccinated and see if you can get your record directly from them in digital form? And if they’re part of this smart health card network? Will you be able to then just download it that way?
Rick Klau 18:15
I mean, I think the advice would be start with where you got your shot. That would make the most sense. And if for some reason they can’t provide you or there’s an issue there. Part of the reason we built what we built in California and we’re working with a number of other states to do the same is to ensure that a resident is not dependent on their vaccine provider to have access to a smart health card. So we become in a sense, the backup and issuer of a smart health card of last resort so that if they can’t get it from their pharmacy or from their health system, that they have another option. Right now that as Paul said, there are five states who are issuing, there are more than a dozen who are in the process. In some cases, I got an email this morning. Couple are probably just a week or two away from announcing and launching.
Okay, so let me just step back and summarize for folks, what I think we’re hearing is we are putting together in this country, the infrastructure for people to be able to validate that they’ve been vaccinated through some digital format in a way that should businesses or policymakers or states or others choose to the infrastructure is there. I think prior to this becoming available if if the state of California had wanted to implement a policy like this, it may not have been able to. So this is probably in the sort of category for much of the country coming soon to a theater near you. Or maybe it’s already arrived, but you just don’t know it yet. Until we’re going to talk a little bit about a big four public announcement and launch, which hopefully, will generate things because I think there’s probably a lot of people out there who aren’t aware of this. And therefore, they might implement a credential like this, maybe the bar owner that you mentioned, Rick, or this school or the employer or someone. And it sounds like Paul, that for business owner and others to use as it doesn’t sound like it’s that big of a chore. Can you tell me does it cost a business money if a business decides they want to download an app and start verifying whether people are vaccinated?
Paul Meyer 20:33
No, they can use the free smart health card verifier app downloaded from the app store, or the Google Play Store and start using it today.
Let’s talk a little bit about the question of how this is likely to occur in the US and none of the three of us are fortune tellers. But we all know that there has been some political controversy emanating largely from Florida and Texas, prohibiting the requirement of vaccine credentials and the use of vaccine credentials in red states. And of course, traditional blue states like California, New York, are going forward as you suggested, Rick, so let’s start with this. How controversial has this been, Rick?
we thought it might be somewhat controversial. When we were getting ready to launch in June. It was not lost on us that some of the conversation that had already happened. It certainly was somewhat charged. From the very first time that Governor Newsome talked at a press conference about what we were about to launch. He emphasized more than anything else, this was optional. There is nothing required about this, this is not something that the state is requiring you, forcing you to get. Nor is it being imposed on anyone. It is one way of showing that you’ve been vaccinated. But of course, your CDC card still valid. And if you don’t want to show your vaccination status, you don’t have to. But to your point, when you started in the discussion about in France, if you want to have access to some parts of public life, there may be some requirements to show information about your vaccination record. This is one of the ways to do that.
Andy Slavitt 22:18
Well, that sounds like Gestapo tactics to me.
We were aware that there were those who would try and impose on the announcement, some sense of a government mandate or overreach. What we found in the last four months is that this has been largely welcomed people who ran their CDC card through the laundry, and it was destroyed. And they no longer had evidence that they’d been vaccinated. People who left the house and didn’t have their CDC card with them. But increasingly, it is something that if you’ve been vaccinated, I know for me has been the case, I like knowing when I’m going into a restaurant or a bar, that I am showing something that gives them confidence that I am not a health risk. And I like knowing that those around me have done the same. So in California, at least, it has not been controversial at all. In fact, it’s nothing short of delightful to see just how many people continue to brag on Twitter, about how great it is that there’s this government website that gives them access to this piece of information that lets them do what they want to. So I think it we thought it might be but in practice, it has been welcomed.
So how come you’re mentioning that you’re using this information to increase people’s taxes and take their guns?
You’re gonna get me in trouble, Andy.
I don’t think you have to answer that question. I personally think you should object to that question. In here, I’m obviously making a point. The point I’m trying to make is why are we on the defensive? Why do we allow ourselves to be on the defensive for doing something that at least at the level you’ve described it as a service to people, you’ll take something that they have in paper form and give it to them digitally. Why? Why? Why? Why are we on the defensive? Any any answers? No, I’m asking you to step out of your your role and just talk as a citizen. What is controversial about that, besides someone telling you it’s controversial?
Rick Klau 24:35
I think you’re hitting on it, Andy. I certainly since we launched in June. I think at this point, I’ve talked to 15 or 16 states, and most of the questions start with a well, some version of how controversial was it and I keep pointing out, it wasn’t and in fact, you will find that your residents are thankful that you gave them something that was convenient, that was efficient, that allowed them to not worry about losing the one paper copy of this really important document. I think we’ve been able to demonstrate that if you go down this path, people will be thankful.
This is not also new. Right? I mean, I don’t know about you. But you know, every September, I have to get a copy of my kids vaccination records to register for school. Right. This is, we’ve been doing this for a long time. And actually, that’s one of the exciting things about the standard in the work we’ve done, you know, even in California is that people are obviously focused right now on COVID vaccines, but this also works for routine immunization records. I mean, you know, I think I think we all know often what a pain it is to actually get your kids immunization records. But, you know, people are worrying about, you know, requiring this to go to bars and restaurants. How about school schools are pretty essential service and people were pretty comfortable for a long time with requiring kids to get vaccinated or registered for school. That’s a pretty fundamental, fundamental right. And you know, for decades, generations, we’ve required vaccination records to attend school and without too much controversy,
Andy Slavitt 26:07
maybe talk a little bit, Paul, we’re going into some territory where both you and I have some personal experience about what you’re hearing from the federal government about this effort? Do they think it’s a good idea? Do they support it? Do they want nothing to do with it? Do they think it’s a bad idea? Where do they land?
Well, so let’s just go back and go to where you start with France. Right? So France has created a national credential. And, you know, using the European Union’s standard format for COVID credentials. And that, you know, basically all the European member states, like France have implemented and you know, they have a centralized National Health System, it’s pretty straightforward, and pretty easy to drive adoption. Obviously, as you know, as you very well know, we have a very fragmented through decentralized healthcare system here. And, you know, clearly the federal government, the last administration in this one, you know, have not affirmatively not created a national credential, not least because we don’t have a national health system, right? So one of the things that’s been quite remarkable about this health card standard, and this is kind of emerged as sort of a, you know, voluntary coalition that has now become the de facto national standard for credentials. So we’ve certainly gotten very positive, encouraging signals from from the government. But I think it’s been easier. Because this isn’t something it was just a federally created, standard or mandate imposed. It was something that, you know, emerged organically from the private sector and from states. And I think, you know, now the federal government can kind of look to it and say, hey, look, this is emerged as the de facto standard and can now get behind it.
When I was in the White House, I was asked frequently when I did press conferences, about whether or not there would be they people referred to this as a vaccine passport, which I think it’s kind of a misnomer, that I think you should call it credentials, it’s more appropriate. Let’s play. One of the questions I got and the response that I gave.
Speaker 4 28:06
was curious if you guys can discuss what is the government or the administration’s current role in issuing these so called passports or certificates? And why is it taking a little while longer for the US to do that, with places like Japan and China and the EU, are further along.
We recognize this is a tricky and important subject. But the core here is that Americans, like people around the world who are vaccinated, will want to be able to demonstrate that vaccination in various forms, this is going to hit all all parts of society. And so naturally, the government is involved. But unlike other parts of the world, the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of citizens. We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do.
You can hear I’m alluding to the work that you’re doing back then without mentioning it by name. But I will tell you just a real little bit of my thinking there. There certainly are a couple components to this. One was it was pretty clear from talking to folks in the government, that this was a hot topic. It was also clear from talking to the technology people in the government, that the initiative that you begun, and they’d gotten, as you said, Mayo Clinic and the people at like Walmart, and you know, the people that help you enter restaurants, buildings and stadiums, all on board that you were going to get there more quickly than any government initiative could have. And so I think that was encouraging. And what was also encouraging is, you’ve talked a few times about an open standard. The corollary to that is something would be called the close to proprietary standard. Where someone charges money, and it had something that they own, and they have IP, and they build a billion dollar business on it. And we were very opposed to that. We wanted an open standard, we wanted something that could be used by all citizens, could be used in multiple languages that was enabled on a smartphone. But it also could be done on paper.
Andy Slavitt 30:16
And we had sort of a series of things that we wanted, and we talked to you about. And all those things were things that were in your plans, or indeed, were already done. So this has been brewing for quite some time. I will say that it’s the kind of thing that I can’t speak for the federal government today. But it’s been done with, I think, some of my partnership, and certainly ongoing conversations. And who knows what will happen, who knows if it’ll be ultimately successful as we want it to be this is going to be based on a lot of things outside of our control. But we wanted there to be being sure that there was a technology available, so that if states like California, and if businesses and if schools decided they wanted to implement credentialing, it would be there. And we’re now headed that direction. So let’s talk about this public launch. And I’m going to talk about it here for the very first time, I think, but I think a press release is going out today or tomorrow that on October 28, there’s going to be a public launch of this vaccine credentialing initiative. Tell us a bit about that. Maybe start with you, Paul. And maybe you could talk a little bit about Rick about what will it take to really get this to step up to realize its potential?
Well, on the 28th, we are doing something we’re calling the smart health global forum, it’s really, you know, a chance to bring together a lot of the key stakeholders that have involved in creating and launching the standard. So Andy, you’re gonna be there. Micky Tripathi, the National Coordinator for FIT, will will be there, we’re going to have Rick, we’re have a state of Hawaii represented, we’re going to have Microsoft and Apple and United Airlines and Royal Caribbean cruise lines, and Salesforce and all sorts of many of the key kind of public and private sector institutions that have come together to make this possible. Part of what we’re trying to do is explain it, right? Explain it to the employers, to the businesses to this the other states about what, what is this standard? How does it work? How do I plug into it? How do I sort of basically join this movement? It’s also intended to send a signal to the rest of the world. Right? A lot of other countries are saying what’s going on with US? What’s the US doing? But I think part of what we’re trying to do on the 28th is, again, explain how it works, how organizations can plug in how people can access their smart health cards and use them, but also signal to the rest of the world. This is what’s going on in the US. This is emerged as the de facto standard, and as countries are, you know, beginning to want to let Americans visit again. And if they’re concerned about verifying the vaccination status of American tourists that, you know, smart health cards are going to be the way they can do that, you know, in a reliable, trustworthy way.
Will this be able to be used for travel, will people coming to the US and people leaving the us be able to use this technology? One or the other?
Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, you know, as you know, the US government just announced that travel from most countries were all countries will be reopened starting on november eighth. But one of the requirements is going to be incoming travelers to the US need to show that they’ve been vaccinated and that they’ve had a negative COVID test. So Canada has now fully adopted smart health cards across all provinces on the land border from Canada into the US reopens as well. So Canadians will be able to use these smart health cards to show that they’ve actually been vaccinated, which is a requirement to you know, to cross the land border. And then for outbound yesterday, Singapore opened its borders to vaccinated Americans and Canadians. But, to be able to go to Singapore, you have to have a smart health card. It has to be issued by an issuer in the common trust network. And that’s a requirement for entry into Singapore. Many other countries are looking at how to verify smart health cards to let vaccinated Americans in their countries as well.
Andy Slavitt 34:55
Rick, what thoughts do you have on how this becomes primetime? What needs to happen. What would you like to see over the next short period of time, so that this really reaches its potential.
We took a big step forward last month, when we the state of California released all of the code that we wrote to implement the smart health card framework to the public domain. So this was kind of in following what you were saying about what the federal government was hoping to see about the emergence of a standard that was open, we decided that other states may not have the same resources we do. I manage a team of close to 100, software developers, product managers, web developers, designers, etc, that we could simplify any effort. If there was a state that was willing, they could take our code and implement it on top of their own immunization registry so that they could do the same thing in their state that we did in California. We’ve got three states that are already teed up, I expect the first will announce sometime in the next week that they are implementing their own vaccine credentialing system for their residents using California’s code.
Rick Klau 36:13
I expect before the end of the year, we’ll probably see as many as a dozen who will do that. When this becomes more normal, and expected. What I want to see happen is I want to see vaccinated Americans, recognizing that this is the simplest, safest, most secure way to share one piece of information to try and get life back to normal. If we know that travelers, we know that people in bars and restaurants who’ve been asked are able to show it, that gets us on the other side of the pandemic. And this is one piece of a much larger puzzle, as you will know. But I do think that in the months ahead, and it’s a very near term future, we’re going to see far more states, joining some of the private actors as well. So that that 150 million number Paul quoted a few moments ago, will be substantially the entire vaccinated population in the US are able to assert their vaccination status.
Got it. So let’s close by focusing on the future. So it’s 2023-2024. For some time, maybe there’s been another COVID wave, maybe there’s not a knock on wood. But we were back in more normal times. But with waves that come every once in a while during perhaps a season or an outbreak in an area and in the community. And let’s say we’re going through one of those waves. Talk to me about how this becomes just a normal part of daily life in California and in America, you know, how might you imagine, you know, if cases rise or there’s something that happens that something like this can become useful?
Rick Klau 38:07
I think the most likely scenario 6,12,18 months from now, you’ve already seen over the last couple of months, that both Apple and Google through Android have made the storage of your smart health card part of the mobile devices function. Right now, that is purely a storage mechanism. There’s no real way to go from the credential that’s on your mobile device to its use either in another app, or presentation and consumption to scan it at the bar just to scan it as part of your airline reservation. What I expect we will see in the year ahead is that it will become less visible, because it will become more portable and interoperable. So that it just becomes an extension of the interactions that you have. That if the need to determine someone’s vaccination status is an important part of a transaction, walking through a door, booking an airline ticket, registering for a class, whatever that may be. Increasingly, today, it is a somewhat multi step process requires somebody going through their camera roll finding the screenshot or navigating to Apple Health and pulling it up. It will just be a simple, almost background experience that makes it simpler and more likely that the exchange of that information is valid and verified. So we’re not worried about fraudulent cards. We’re not worried about people misrepresenting. It will just become simpler, and I think it will fade ironically, to the background to just enable day to day interactions.
Well, thank you Rick, and it always takes pioneers to make progress. I really impressed with things like you’re opening up the code to this to other states, because there’s an advantage to the people who’ve gone first and that they’ve seen what happens, seen the mistakes, seeing the successes. And you know, you’re going to be a critical resource to the rest of the country, as people take this on. So thanks for what you’re doing. And thanks for being on IN THE BUBBLE
Rick Klau 40:24
Thank you so much for having me, Andy. It’s been a pleasure.
All right, Paul. Now, how do people find out about this launch? How do they learn more? Do you have a website? Do you have a way of under filing this October 28 launch, can the public participate in the public attend? Tell us about it.
Yeah, you can go to the commonsproject.org. And there’s a link on the website or vci.org. Also, two places you can go and register and participate. It’s October 28th, from 10AM, to noon. So welcome people to join us and learn even more.
Tell us why you’re doing this. I think I think people who are listening in, one of the things we try to give them is you know more than just with some insights. Personally, what’s causing you to feel like this is a good way to spend your time, you’re trying to lift up something that has huge but broad diffuse benefits, what’s driving you?
I’ve spent about 20 years trying to improve health with technology. You and I met I guess about 11 years ago, when I helped launch the service called texture baby, using the text messaging to help pregnant women or new moms have better health outcomes for themselves and their babies. So I’m just been very passionate about I’ve been kind of unleashing the power of technology and, and mobile phones to improve health outcomes. One of the reasons that, you know, I think I’m personally and we as commons project are so excited about this is there’s there’s real urgency around solving this problem because of COVID. But really what we’re doing here and why we’re excited about this more health card standard is because it’s not just about COVID vaccination records, it’s really about a standardized way of empowering people with health information, and putting it in their hands. And there all sorts of interesting kind of potential implications for that, as you know, I spoke about earlier, you know, just getting your regular immunization records in this format and being able to, you know, share it with your kid’s school, or, you know, share your health records, you know, with a new doctor.
Paul Meyer 42:27
There is such power in in giving individuals control of their health information. And so that’s sort of why we’re doing this, we’re obviously you know, trying to step in to fill this urgent need, you know, in this country and frankly, around the world to help kind of recover and reopen from COVID. But really, this is sort of a catalytic opportunity to drive adoption of a standard that is about empowering people with trustworthy reliable health data that can be used to improve health. If you think about, COVID has also been a huge accelerant for sort of digital health and telehealth being you think about digital health and telehealth, like if people can’t bring their data with them. And the potential of sort of digital health and telehealth is unrealized. And so, you know, we’re doing this because again, there’s an urgent need. But it’s really a catalytic opportunity to drive adoption of this new open standard that can empower people with their health information, improve the way health is delivered in this country and around the world.
Well, let’s leave it there. Thank you, Paul. Thank you, Rick. I think there’s gonna be a lot of Americans that are feeling a lot of different ways about all this, but I think many people will be encouraged, because they think this is sensible. Many people would prefer that the government did this themselves. In fact, and all the data shows that these requirements, enjoy a lot of popular support, not just in states like California, but throughout the country. Thanks for your work. Let’s keep tabs on it. And I look forward to helping you launch this thing on the 28th.
Thank you so much.
Okay, let me just tell you real quickly what’s coming up on in the bubble next week. We have former CDC director and head of Robert Wood Johnson Richard Besser, we have Stéphane Bancel, who’s the CEO of Moderna, one of the manufacturers of one of the major vaccines and the mRNA platform, and Paul Offit, who is a world class pediatrician who is involved in the decision that is about to be made. That will expand the use of vaccines to 5 to 11 year olds and we’ll talk about that with Paul. He’ll be fresh off, advising on that. Okay, folks, enjoy the rest of the week.
Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. Hope you rate us highly. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kryssy Pease and Alex McOwen produced the show. Our mix is by Ivan Kuraev. Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs still rule our lives and executive produced the show. And our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, and additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter or at @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you like what you heard today, most importantly, please tell your friends to come listen and please stay safe, share some joy and we will get through this together.