NHS can now store your Covid vaccine passport with Google and Apple

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Google has added support for COVID-19 vaccination passports across the Android operating system and within Google Pay. Yes, the latter is the same app currently used to house credit and debit cards and enable tap-to-pay with your smartphone at the checkout. While Google Pay has supported store loyalty cards, like a Boots card to collect points with your purchases, for some time, it hasn’t become the catch-all that its equivalent on iPhone, dubbed Apple Wallet, has become.

Apple’s popular Wallet app, which comes preinstalled on all iPhones, not only holds credit cards and loyalty cards, but is also used for cinema, train, plane and theatre tickets, for example. Apple Stores even issue a ticket to use within app when reserving a slot to pick-up a new gadget on launch day.

As such, it’s the perfect app to hold a COVID-19 vaccination passport. Not only does this mean you won’t need to remember the little blue card handed over at the vaccination centre with the batch number and date of your jab… but it also means the proof of your vaccination will transferred automatically when you upgrade to a new iPhone model. Apple Watch owners will also be able to show the QR code from their wrist, like it’s already possible to do with Boarding Passes at the airport, payment cards, and other cards saved in Apple Wallet.

Apple has enabled some third-party apps to add a COVID-19 vaccination passport to the Wallet app since the end of last year. Some US cities, like Los Angeles, have already adopted the feature, so those with two doses of the COVID-19 jab can prove their vaccinated status with a digital card in Apple Wallet. However, adoption hasn’t been all that widespread.

Following Apple’s footsteps, Google is expanding its wallet-like app, which is available on all Android handsets, to help societies re-open during the global public health crisis. From today, Google Pay can save and display a COVID-19 vaccination card. When travelling internationally or visiting some large-scale events, like the Euros 2020 at Wembley, you’ll need to present proof of vaccination, or a negative test.

Being able to quickly load up the official COVID-19 vaccination card with a swipe from the lockscreen on your handset is going to be a great timesaver. Especially if more establishments start to require proof of vaccination.

And if you don’t have Google Pay installed on your handset – don’t worry. It’s still possible to keep a digital copy of your card on your handset without installing the app. So, even if you don’t have any interest in using your smartphone to make contactless payments, you will still be able to show a vaccine passport.

Whenever you need to access a COVID-19 card, Google will require you to type in the password, PIN or biometric method set up for the Android device.

This is an extra security measure to prevent people from stealing the unique details from your COVID-19 vaccination passport to make a duplicate – to unlock the ability to travel internationally without ever taking a vaccine, for example.

So far, only a few health providers in the United States have taken up Google and Apple on their virtual wallet solutions.

For those reading this in the UK, the UK Government seems steadfast on requiring people to use its own NHS app, rather than tapping into any third-party solutions. The NHS app was recently updated to include support for a COVID-19 vaccination card. The NHS app is distinct from the NHS COVID-19 app, which is designed to stop the spread of the virus by monitoring your movements and alerting you if you’ve been in close proximity for an extended period with someone who has later tested positive. It’s available on iPhone and Android and also contains medical notes and history as recorded by your GP.

Using the solution from Google or Apple would mean your vaccination card could be accessible on multiple devices at once – and could be used from a smartwatch or other accessory.

Google says the update to Google Pay will be available in all countries “soon,” potentially making this a truly internationally-recognised option for travellers. Meanwhile, the NHS app would need to be updated to tap into the solution created by Apple Wallet. 

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