State to launch mobile platform for Alaskans to show they’re vaccinated

a person holds a Covid-19 vaccination record card
Paper cards like this one, shown by retired chemistry teacher David Boyd at a January COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Anchorage, could be replaced by a digital system that the state of Alaska is preparing to launch. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said his administration won’t require vaccine passports.

But it is nonetheless getting ready to launch an optional online platform Alaskans can use to look up and display their COVID-19 vaccination records, officials said at a news conference Thursday. It’s called MyIR Mobile — short for My Immunization Record — and it will also allow Alaskans to show they’ve received other types of shots, not just the ones for COVID-19.

“I would really like people to think of MyIR Mobile as your old, yellow vaccination card,” said Matt Bobo, a top state vaccine official.

Conservatives like Dunleavy, both in Alaska and nationally, have opposed the idea of requiring people to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of accessing public spaces or services.

Dunleavy issued an administrative order last month saying the state’s executive branch “does not, and will not, require any person to produce their personal vaccine history, also referred to as a ‘vaccine passport,’ in order to travel to, or around, Alaska.” President Joe Biden’s administration has also declined to endorse or support a vaccine passport system, or a federal vaccination database.

At the same time, some businesses and schools across the country have decided to require vaccinations, and want ways to confirm customers and students have gotten the shots beyond the paper cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I think most of the travel industry would prefer some way to validate. But we have to rely on the cards, which has been the honor system, for sure,” said Dan Blanchard, chief executive of UnCruise, which runs small-boat cruises in Southeast Alaska.

Blanchard said the tourism industry would like to see a coordinated federal system of validation, since its guests come from around the country. But for now, privately-designed systems like MyIR Mobile appear to be the alternative, and are being used on a state-by-state basis.

Businesses would not have direct access to the state’s or individuals’ vaccination records through MyIR Mobile; it would only be open to individuals looking for their or their family members’ information, according to the state health department.

The platform has existed for several years to provide people with access to vaccination records, and has been used by tens of thousands of people in several other states, from Washington to Arizona to Maryland, according to STCHealth, the company that makes the system.

Alaska has been exploring adopting the application since 2019, state officials said.

Users will first have to go through a process to validate their identity, then can get all their vaccination records from the state to show on their phone, Bobo said Thursday. Alaska health officials also said they expect to use the system to alert residents when they’re due for a vaccine booster shot.

The state health department, which was recently hit by a cyberattack, is currently working through technology security reviews for MyIR Mobile. Bobo said he can’t predict the date when the platform will launch, though officials later said it will take at least two months before a pilot program could debut.

The pilot program would be free, and if it’s successful, a customized version would cost the state $12,000 to launch and $5,000 a year, officials said.

This story has been updated to add detail about the application, and its cost.