OHA developing new digital vaccine tool- here’s what we know so far

OREGON- The Oregon Health Authority is developing a digital vaccine verification tool to provide the people of Oregon an electronic way to share their vaccination status with businesses that ask for proof of verification. The state says it’s entirely voluntary, and modeled after similar tools used in Washington and California.

But that’s about all the OHA is saying about it right now.

“Currently we are testing this verification tool in communities that have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19,” said OHA public information officer Tim Hieber. “Recently, I traveled to a state where it was common to be asked about vaccination status in order to get access to restaurants or clubs or that kind of thing. That’s becoming more and more common, and this is just an easier way of providing that access.”

The House Special Committee on Covid-19 Response heard about the project during a November 17th meeting. That’s where the OHA Public Health Director Rachael Banks talked about the development thus far.

“How can we best roll this out? As well as talking with other states who had done this to understand their lessons learned, what they wish they would have done in the planning,” Banks said. At the time, she said they were in phase two. “We’ve gathered all of the feedback from phase one and use that to really map out our process and to determine our timeline, and to make some decisions around rollout.”

We reached out to every member of the special committee Tuesday- no one responded.

Klamath County Republican State Senator Dennis Linthicum sees the program as government overreach.

“This is really an untoward motion by the Governor’s office, or OHA, either, both, or whoever’s leading who, I don’t know,” he said. He concerned about if the data will be stored and how it will be used.

Across the aisle, Ashland Democratic State Representative Pam Marsh is also concerned about making sure the digital project is secure. But she sees the new tool as an easier way to have your vaccine information on hand in place of the CDC’s paper card.

“It’s not being used in any way for tracking people, or mandating that it be used, or any of the concerns that I know have been expressed around the development of the app,” she said.

The program is scheduled to launch in March, but that could change, according to Director Banks: “That timeline could be pushed up really, as long as we ensure that we will continue to have that community engagement and testing process with both community and businesses.”

While there’s been some concern about a lack of public comment on the program, the OHA says there was never a public comment period held because the volunteer tool is not a change in policy.

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Grace Smith
Grace Smith is co-anchor for NBC5 News at 6. The Chicago native is a recent graduate of University of Miami with a Communication Honors degree specializing in Broadcast Journalism. She minored in Creative Writing and focused her senior thesis on social media usage and engagement. During her time at the University of Miami, she anchored multiple award-winning student television programs, covering everything from music festivals to the Super Bowl. Though she loved Miami's beaches, she's thrilled to be in the Pacific Northwest where she can experience all four seasons and have a real Christmas tree! When she’s not at work, you can find Grace glued to any television showing live sports (especially if it's the Chicago Bears) or attempting a new recipe as she learns to cook.