How to Put a Vaccine Card on Your Phone

Is that proof of vaccination card too big to fit in your pocket? Stick it on your phone instead.

Oh good, you’re vaccinated. Now all you gotta do is prove it.

More businesses, employers, and venues are issuing mandates for vaccines against Covid-19, which means you’ll need proof of vaccination to get in the door. In the US, those slightly-too-big-for-your-wallet paper cards are the main official record that someone has been vaccinated. They can be a pain to carry around, and are just as easy to lose as anything else that’s jangling around in your pockets. Fortunately, there are ways to digitize them. Usually.

While places like the European Union offer official digital vaccine certificates to all citizens, the US is a bit more … complicated. Here’s how to go about it.

Safety First

As with any kind of personal information, you should consider the potential risk of dumping your deets online. Back in June, Apple said that it was developing features to let users store their driver’s licenses and state IDs in Apple Wallet. The move drew some concern from security experts, who pointed out that even if Apple itself can’t access the files, hackers or overzealous law enforcement agents could. In some cases, using Google or Apple Pay might be a good idea. Contactless pay services like Apple Pay have been hacked, and it’s possible the same could happen to your vaccine card.

Get Official

The first thing you’ll need is an official digital record of your vaccine information. This can come from government websites, your health care provider, or the place where you received your shot.

Depending on where you live, getting records from the government might be tricky. A few states make it easy and offer access to digital records via SMART Health Cards. Right now, this is the case in California, Louisiana, Hawaii, parts of Maryland, and Virginia. They’re also available in parts of Canada. Here’s everywhere that uses SMART cards.

Other states may not be so straightforward. And in some places, governors have outright banned digital Covid vaccine records in the name of “medical freedom.” You’ll have to check with your state’s official resource websites. PC Mag has a handy list of digital vaccine options organized by state.

If you received a vaccine from your usual health care provider, you might be able to get information through them as well. Depending on where you got vaccinated, it’s possible that the company itself can digitize your vax card. You can generate digital vaccine records with Walmart, Sam’s Club, Rite Aid, and Express Scripts. All will require that you have accounts and log into them.

Once you have your virtual vaccine card, you can just leave it on your device and pull it up whenever you need to. To make the process even smoother, you can add it to your phone’s wireless payment app for near-instant access. Here’s how…

Apple Health/Wallet
Vaccination Card displayed in Apple Wallet
Photograph: Apple

Apple’s newest mobile operating system, iOS 15, was released in September and comes with a host of new features. Among them, the Health app gives you the option to save and share your medical records, including your Covid vaccine status, with other health care providers. You can also save the card in Apple Wallet, which will let you be ready well before the burly bouncer at the door of your local tiki bar starts glaring at you.

To add the info to Apple Wallet, first update to iOS 15.1 (or later, if you’re reading this from the future). Next, you’ll need that SMART card. If you downloaded the digital version of the card, there should be a link on the form itself that says “Add to Wallet & Health.” Tap that. You can also scan the QR code with your camera app and it should automatically pull up the screen.

When you see a “Vaccination Added” message, you’re set. To pull up your card in Apple Wallet, simply go into the app and scroll down until you see the “Vaccination Card” tile. Tap it open and display away.

You can also go into the Health app to get to your digital vax info later. Open the app, tap Browse, and then Immunizations. Your Covid vaccine QR code should pop right up. (If not, check the Lab Results tab, just below Immunizations.) Before you can view it, you will need to authenticate with Face ID, a fingerprint, or a password.

Google Pay
Vaccination Card displayed on Android Wallet
Photograph: Google

If you’re on an Android device, you can add your vaccine info directly to Google Pay, which will make it available right from the lock screen. The device has to have an Android 5 or later operating system. It also has to be Play Protect certified. (You shouldn’t have to worry about this unless you got your phone from a sketchy guy in a dark alleyway or something.)

First, you’ll need to access your digital vax card. If it’s a SMART Health card, there should be a link toward the bottom that says “Save to phone.” Tap that, then select Google Pay. (Note: You don’t actually have to have Google Pay to put your digital vax on your phone, but you still have to tap through this bit.)

To access the card later, you can hold down the power button to bring up Google Pay options. If you don’t see the vaccine card, look for a menu made of three small vertical dots toward the upper right corner of the screen. Tap that, then select “View All.” That will take you to another screen and at the bottom it should say “COVID-19 Vaccination Card.” Select that, and enter your passcode or fingerprint if need be.

Up in the right hand corner on the card page, there’s another three-dot menu with a “Save to home” option. That allows you to place a shortcut on your phone’s home screen.

Google says the information stays on-device. That means if you’ve got multiple phones, you’ll have to repeat the process for each one.

There’s Also Samsung Pay

Samsung phones run on Android, so you could just use the steps above. Honestly, it’s simpler that way. But c’mon, you spent $1,000 on a Galaxy Z Fold3 for a reason, right? That’s why there’s a way to get vaxes to your records on Samsung Pay.

To do this, you’ll first have to download the CommonHealth app, which is run by the nonprofit Commons Project. From there, you can scan in your SMART Health Card. Once it’s on your device, tap the Samsung Pay button and that should be that. You can access your vax card directly from Samsung Pay, or from the home screen by swiping up into Samsung Pay and tapping “Use Card.”

If All Else Fails

Just take a picture of your vaccine card and keep it on your phone. Snap the front and back, make sure the picture’s as clear as possible, and save it.

This won’t give you a QR code, and it will only be as secure as the photos app or folder you store it in. On an Apple device, you can hide photos by opening the photo, tapping Share, and then Hide. If you’ve got a Pixel phone, you can save a copy of your vaccine card in a locked folder. (Google says this feature will eventually come to other Android phones, but it’s not clear when.) Basically, you want to treat your vaccine card the same way you’d protect your nudes.

More Great WIRED Stories