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What you need to know about US vaccine proof on your phone

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What you need to know about US vaccine proof on your phone


We’re keeping track of the covid vaccine apps rolling out in the US and some of the ways people can now prove they’re vaccinated. But there’s a lot of conflicting and confusing information, and a lot of developers are vying to provide the go-to solution. Here, we’ve gathered answers to some common questions.

The basics

What’s a digital vaccine credential? Is it the same as a vaccine passport? 

Digital vaccine credentials are a way to show you’ve been vaccinated against covid by using an app on your phone (instead of a paper record). States have a wide variety of policies and plans related to these kinds of credentials, which are also sometimes known as vaccine passports.

Some states have their own apps for times that vaccine proof is needed, such as New York’s Excelsior Pass, New Jersey’s Docket, and myColorado. Louisiana’s LA Wallet app, which also holds a driver’s license, can store a covid credential. How states link digital credentials with immunization records may vary. For example, California texts a QR code to vaccinated individuals who fill out a form to verify their identity. Some states and territories have partnered with MyIRMobile, including Arizona, DC, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia. Governors and lawmakers in some states—for example, Alabama, Florida, Montana, and Texas—are actively opposed to requiring vaccine proof.

To find out where each state stands on mandating vaccine credentials and providing means for digitizing them, check out Tech Review’s guide to covid vaccine apps in the US. 

Why would I want an app on my phone for vaccine proof? 

Some experts have pointed out that vaccine proof on a phone isn’t as reliable as the tried-and-true paper card from the CDC. That may be, but it’s a good alternative or supplement to carrying a vaccine card everywhere. Digital proof doesn’t necessarily mean installing a new app: A photo or scan of the paper card stored on the phone will do for some venues. The latest version of Apple’s Health app, for iOS 15, will be able to store health records—including covid vaccination proof.

Be aware that although apps can be a convenient way to store information about vaccine status, experts warn of potential risks to data privacy as this technology is relatively new and being rolled out quickly. 

Getting around town

Do I need to show vaccine proof in my everyday life—for example, if I want to eat indoors at a restaurant? 

Most cities and towns in the US do not have vaccine requirements for indoor dining. New York City was the first to announce mandates, and it’s still one of the few to do so. It requires proof of at least one dose of vaccination for entry into restaurants, gyms, and other indoor entertainment spaces like theaters, museums, and more. San Francisco and New Orleans followed suit, with the former taking a tougher stance and requiring patrons to be fully vaccinated. Similar mandates are planned for Los Angeles and the Seattle region in October. 

Some individual restaurants now require patrons to show proof of vaccination. To find out if you have to carry your vaccine proof to dinner, check to see if the restaurant is on OpenTable’s map or check with the venue.

Are businesses legally allowed to require vaccine proof for entry?

Yes. Restaurants, gyms, theatres, and some other types of businesses in cities like New York and Los Angeles want to ensure their patrons are vaccinated. While this hasn’t become common practice outside some major cities, private businesses can legally ask for proof of vaccination before providing service. 

Can businesses ask their employees for vaccine proof? What about schools?

It’s legal for businesses and governments to require employees to be vaccinated, as long as they allow exemptions for medical or religious reasons. Many companies already require workers to get vaccinated, and others are following suit. 

While teachers and staff in many school districts have been required to get vaccinated, the rule has not extended to students in most areas. Los Angeles is the first major school district to mandate covid vaccines for students ages 12 and older who are attending class in person. Covid vaccines for children under 16 have not received full FDA approval yet. When the approvals come through, more states or school districts may include the covid vaccine on their lists of required immunizations. An increasing number of colleges and universities require vaccination.

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Donald ’67, SM ’69, and Glenda Mattes

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Donald ’67, SM ’69, and Glenda Mattes


Don Mattes started giving to the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT before he himself was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Since his death in 2020, his wife, Glenda, has carried forward Don’s passion for its work. “My wish is that no one ever has to go through the horrors of Alzheimer’s disease ever again,” Glenda says. The Matteses have also supported the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.

Legacy sparks hope. An early key employee of Andover Controls who later ran the company’s European operations, Don visited six continents with Glenda during their 30-year marriage—often to ski or bicycle. “Don’s was a life well lived, just too short,” Glenda says. The couple made provisions in their estate plan to support the Picower Institute. After Don died, Glenda made a gift to MIT of real estate that established both endowed and current-use funds there to support research on Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other neurodegenerative diseases. Glenda is a cancer survivor, and the gift also endowed a fund in the couple’s name at the Koch Institute.

Great discoveries being made at MIT: “Don always said the best thing he got from MIT was being taught how to think,” Glenda says. “MIT is an amazing place. Picower Institute director Li-Huei Tsai and her team are doing more than looking for a treatment for Alzheimer’s. They’re looking for the root cause of the disease. I am also fascinated with the Koch’s melding of engineering and biology. The chances they are going to solve the cancer issue someday are very high.” 

Help MIT build a better world.
For more information, contact Amy Goldman: (617) 253-4082;  goldmana@mit.edu. Or visit giving.mit.edu/planned-giving.

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Investing in women pays off

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Investing in women pays off


“Starting a business is a privilege,” says Burton O’Toole, who worked at various startups before launching and later selling AdMass, her own marketing technology company. The company gave her access to the HearstLab program in 2016, but she soon discovered that she preferred the investment aspect and became a vice president at HearstLab a year later. “To empower some of the smartest women to do what they love is great,” she says. But in addition to rooting for women, Burton O’Toole loves the work because it’s a great market opportunity. 

“Research shows female-led teams see two and a half times higher returns compared to male-led teams,” she says, adding that women and people of color tend to build more diverse teams and therefore benefit from varied viewpoints and perspectives. She also explains that companies with women on their founding teams are likely to get acquired or go public sooner. “Despite results like this, just 2.3% of venture capital funding goes to teams founded by women. It’s still amazing to me that more investors aren’t taking this data more seriously,” she says. 

Burton O’Toole—who earned a BS from Duke in 2007 before getting an MS and PhD from MIT, all in mechanical engineering—has been a “data nerd” since she can remember. In high school she wanted to become an actuary. “Ten years ago, I never could have imagined this work; I like the idea of doing something in 10 more years I couldn’t imagine now,” she says. 

When starting a business, Burton O’Toole says, “women tend to want all their ducks in a row before they act. They say, ‘I’ll do it when I get this promotion, have enough money, finish this project.’ But there’s only one good way. Make the jump.”

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Preparing for disasters, before it’s too late

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Preparing for disasters, before it’s too late


All too often, the work of developing global disaster and climate resiliency happens when disaster—such as a hurricane, earthquake, or tsunami—has already ravaged entire cities and torn communities apart. But Elizabeth Petheo, MBA ’14, says that recently her work has been focused on preparedness. 

It’s hard to get attention for preparedness efforts, explains Petheo, a principal at Miyamoto International, an engineering and disaster risk reduction consulting firm. “You can always get a lot of attention when there’s a disaster event, but at that point it’s too late,” she adds. 

Petheo leads the firm’s projects and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region and advises globally on international development and humanitarian assistance. She also works on preparedness in the Asia-Pacific region with the United States Agency for International Development. 

“We’re doing programming on the engagement of the private sector in disaster risk management in Indonesia, which is a very disaster-prone country,” she says. “Smaller and medium-sized businesses are important contributors to job creation and economic development. When they go down, the impact on lives, livelihoods, and the community’s ability to respond and recover effectively is extreme. We work to strengthen their own understanding of their risk and that of their surrounding community, lead them through an action-planning process to build resilience, and link that with larger policy initiatives at the national level.”

Petheo came to MIT with international leadership experience, having managed high-profile global development and risk mitigation initiatives at the World Bank in Washington, DC, as well as with US government agencies and international organizations leading major global humanitarian responses and teams in Sri Lanka and Haiti. But she says her time at Sloan helped her become prepared for this next phase in her career. “Sloan was the experience that put all the pieces together,” she says.

Petheo has maintained strong connections with MIT. In 2018, she received the Margaret L.A. MacVicar ’65, ScD ’67, Award in recognition of her role starting and leading the MIT Sloan Club in Washington, DC, and her work as an inaugural member of the Graduate Alumni Council (GAC). She is also a member of the Friends of the MIT Priscilla King Gray Public Service Center.

“I believe deeply in the power and impact of the Institute’s work and people,” she says. “The moment I graduated, my thought process was, ‘How can I give back, and how can I continue to strengthen the experience of those who will come after me?’”

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