Annapolis to expand a vaccination tracking program

ANNAPOLIS — State health officials said they will expand a vaccination tracking program that will allow people to prove their COVID-19 inoculation status. The expansion of the MyIR program will allow users to generate a code that third parties can scan. State officials said it could be used to prove COVID-19 vaccination status, but they stopped short of calling it a vaccine passport. “I think it’s just another way for people to have the convenience of showing they’re vaccinated,” said Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. “We’re not looking at any vaccine passport.” The governor also announced that he plans to introduce emergency legislation he said would help ease worker shortages at hospitals. The 18-month pandemic has exacerbated those staffing concerns. The rise of the delta variant and increased cases and deaths among the unvaccinated continue to put pressure on governments and local health officials hoping to avoid returning to capacity limits and other restrictions. Local government leaders in Anne Arundel and Montgomery Counties have floated the creation of a vaccine passport system. “I know people feel it is their right to not get vaccinated but your right not to get vaccinated and your insistence that you should be allowed to go to restaurants and every place else means that your right not to get vaccinated gets translated into a right to make other people sick who actually don’t want to be sick,” Montgomery County E

xecutive Marc Elrich, a Democrat, told reporters Wednesday. “I have no sympathy for that argument. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, stay in your house. Those people who have gotten vaccinated have the right to go out and enjoy the things that are available to them because it is safe.” Roughly 1 million eligible Marylanders remain unvaccinated, according to the state Health Department. A sizable chunk of those are children who are not eligible for shots at this time. Elrich has yet to release his proposal for a vaccine passport. In the last few weeks, he has described one possible program that would require businesses to bar patrons who are not vaccinated. That idea differs from one floated by Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman. The first-term Democrat has publicly discussed a voluntary program that would allow the county, and local businesses that wish to opt in, a way to verify vaccination status. But those same l ocal leaders complained the state is denying access to the data needed for such a system. Marylanders vaccinated in the state can already acce

ss their records for COVID-19 and other vaccinations using the The current system, which can be accessed on mobile devices, shows the records for those vaccinations including the date and type of vaccine. Maryland Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said Thursday tha t the system will soon let users generate scannable QR codes. “Starting next week, Marylanders will be able to access a QR code that has their COVID-19 vaccination status in it through,” Schrader said. “That will hopefully continue to make it easier to gain access and to demonstrate that you’ve had a vaccination.” Hogan also announced that he will propose legislation he said will help ease staffing shortages at hospitals. The bill could come in a special session, if one is held later this year, or in January. Hospitalizations for the la