RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Department of Health is developing a tool that will allow businesses to quickly and easily verify customers’ vaccination status, simply by scanning a QR code.
The tool, expected to launch in the next two to three weeks, will be an alternative to an existing VDH portal that allows Virginians to print out a PDF confirming that they’ve received the COVID-19 vaccination.
When asked about the new platform during a phone briefing on Tuesday, State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said VDH still has no immediate plans to implement vaccine passports. Avula said this is a response to increasing requirements to show vaccination proof in the private sector.
“Those companies that are requiring you to have a QR code to get on a flight or to participate in an activity… we’ll provide that for Virginians but we aren’t going to house the actual passport or provide guidelines around how that should be used at all,” Avula said.
“We continue to pay attention to see if these are taking hold in other communities….New York is probably the best example of adopting that,” Avula continued.
Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that all state, executive branch employees would be required to get a vaccine or be subject to weekly testing starting Sept. 1. Northam also reiterated that he has no plans to mandate a vaccine for the general public.
However, when the FDA grants full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine, Avula expects mandates to become more common. He anticipates the agency to take that step in September.
“I think when FDA moves to full licensure in the next few weeks, we will see even more of that and vaccine requirements will be very commonplace throughout the country,” Avula said.
Final approval from the FDA could open the door for vaccine mandates in public schools, at least for older teens, according to Avula. He said that decision would fall to the Virginia General Assembly, though it’s not clear if the option is actively being considered.
Avula said the FDA could give emergency use authorization to vaccinate children aged 5-11 as soon as September.
While that’s sooner than initially expected, Avula said VDH has been working throughout the summer to prepare pediatricians to assist in this stage of the roll out. He said local health departments are also prepared to collaborate with school districts to set up voluntary vaccination clinics again this fall.
VDH Deputy Commissioner for Population Health Dr. Laurie Forlano said VDH is strongly in favor of children returning to in-person learning. However, she said it’s vital for schools to follow CDC guidance and implement universal masking.