Connecticut’s COVID vaccine passport program is live. Here’s how it works.

Photo of Peter Yankowski
Gov. Ned Lamont announces state aid for flood mitigation efforts during a press conference Friday at Municipal Parking lot on the Norwalk River in Norwalk.

Gov. Ned Lamont announces state aid for flood mitigation efforts during a press conference Friday at Municipal Parking lot on the Norwalk River in Norwalk.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday announced the launch of Connecticut’s version of a digital vaccine passport, allowing state residents to upload their COVID-19 vaccination card to a smartphone or other mobile device.

The move follows other states, including New York, California, Colorado and Louisiana, which already give their residents options to carry proof of COVID-19 vaccination on their smartphones.

In New York, where residents must either show proof of vaccination or wear a mask at most places indoors, the state offers the Excelsior Pass, an app that can be used to verify vaccination status as well as COVID-19 test results.

But Connecticut’s version of a COVID-19 pass announced Monday is more basic than New York’s version.

Users must access their COVID-19 vaccination records through the state’s immunization database, CT WiZ. From there, they get a “SMART Health Card,” which can be saved in the user’s phone in the photo roll, or in an app, including an iPhone’s wallet.

The card includes a QR code that uses the same standard as the one’s already in use by New York, California and Canada, according to the governor’s office.

“I want to disabuse a lot of the fake news out there ... the SMART Health Card is A, purely optional and voluntary,” Lamont said during a COVID-19 news conference on Monday. “It’s an added conveniance and it’s secure, that information by law, by contract cannot be sold, it cannot be disbursed,” he added. He said Massachusetts and Rhode Island will add the same capability as well.

A group of conservative lawmakers — state Sen. Rob Sampson and Reps. Doug Dubitsky, Kimberly Fiorello, Anne Dauphinais and Gale Mastrofrancesco — issued a statement Monday condemning what they called the governor’s vaccine “passport.”

“Lamont is openly calling for private businesses to begin dividing the free citizens of Connecticut into classes for the purpose of segregation and discrimination,” they wrote in the statement. “I would say that is worth clamoring attention to.”

The governor has repeatedly pushed back against calling the system a vaccine passport, claiming the phrase implies residents will be required to show proof of vaccination. But in many places — including New York — that’s already the case.

“It’s really a plus— down there in New York you can’t go to into a restaurant unless you can show your vaccination status,” Lamont noted Monday.

In New York City, children as young as 5-years-old must now show proof of having had at least one dose of a vaccine to eat in a restaurant, go to a museum or aquarium and most other indoor venues. Beginning next Monday, Dec. 27, people 12 and older will need to show proof that they are fully-vaccinated. That day also marks the deadline for in-person workers and people who work with the public in New York City to show they’ve received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Lamont said the system will make it easier for shops and businesses to require people to show if they’ve been vaccinated. “I’ll be blunt, I like to go to a restaurant where someone does ask me for my vaccination status. I like to know who I’m sitting next to, it just makes me feel a lot safer,” he said.

Asked about concerns that the system could put users private information at risk, Josh Geballe, the state’s chief operating officer, said the contract for the system prevents information from being sold. “The information’s no different than what’s on [the user’s] vaccine card,” he said. “It’s very clear with regards to the SMART Health Card that data’s very secure. People who are concerned about this topic though— they may want to take another look at all the other apps that are on their phone.”

In a moment of levity, a slide from the governor’s presentation included a state health card filled out for Santa Claus, showing Saint Nicholas had been vaccinated with Moderna beginning at the start of April, and had received a booster shot at the start of December.

“Santa is looking good. Santa can come to my house,” Lamont said.