When California officials unveiled a new system to provide digital COVID-19 vaccine records last week, they billed it as a convenience, an easy way for residents to demonstrate and verify their inoculation status.
But the offering has not been without hiccups. Already, the state has received nearly 70,000 troubleshooting forms submitted online by residents looking to correct or complete their information, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Though only a fraction of the 558,000 digital records that have successfully been created since the system went live Friday, the numbers demonstrate how even relatively uncommon issues can wind up inconveniencing tens of thousands of people.
Here's what to do if you run into a similar problem:
What are these records?
The state's new COVID-19 vaccine verification system provides digital replicas of the wallet-size paper cards residents should have received when they rolled up their sleeves for their vaccinations.
Records are accessible through myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov. There, Californians are prompted to provide their name, date of birth and the email address or cellphone number they used when getting their vaccine. They will also need to create a four-digit personal identification number.
If the submitted information matches an official record, the resident will get an email or text with a link to access a digital copy of the inoculation record, as well as a QR code.
What are the issues?
A handful of residents have already reached out to The Times saying they have been unable to access their records even after providing all the requested information.
One snag that's emerged is the requirement for an email address or phone number — which has to match what a person submitted when receiving her or his COVID-19 vaccine.
However, that information might be missing for some. Because the system pulls from records maintained within and accessible through the state’s immunization registry systems, it's also conceivable someone's record may be filed under an email address or phone number that's either outdated or was used for a non-COVID-19 vaccine.
"Better than 90% of the records in the immunization registry today have contact information. Some of that predates a resident's COVID vaccination record, so it may be a result of a prior vaccination record that's in the immunization registry," Rick Klau, the state’s chief technology innovation officer, said during a briefing Friday.
Other residents have told The Times the state system doesn't appear to have an entry for them at all.
State officials acknowledge there could be data gaps if providers haven't submitted all their records, which is why they recommend residents also check with their individual vaccine administrators if they run into issues.
How can I fix my information?
If a record is either incomplete or inaccurate, state officials recommend using an online troubleshooting form to submit any required fixes.
Staff will review each and make any necessary updates. Residents should receive an email when that's done — though officials note the process could take two to three weeks.
"The troubleshooting process will correct human error in data entry and the source data," Sami Gallegos, press secretary for the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, wrote in an email Monday.
She added that "most issues have to do with missing contact information. The requests go to a queue to research and update after we have permission of the individual to so. This is currently a manual process."
The state's website also originally said that residents should include photos of their physical vaccine cards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as a valid form of ID. However, as of Monday morning, there appeared to be no way to attach photos to the troubleshooting form before submitting.
In response to a follow-up inquiry from The Times, Gallegos explained: "This will be requested at the subsequent remediation step. The page has been updated to clarify."
What else can I do?
Residents can contact a state hotline at (833) 422-4255 for additional assistance or visit cdph.ca.gov/covidvaccinerecord for more troubleshooting tips.
"We will learn as we go," Klau said, and the online/hotline options are there to help resolve issues of "missing information or legacy information that needs to be updated."
Do I need to get a digital record?
No. State officials say the digital records are for anyone who wants one, but are not mandatory.
"The odds are someone's going to misplace the paper CDC card, and the digital COVID-19 vaccine record provides a convenient backup," state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said Friday.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.