Alberta rolls out vaccine QR codes without app, will not replace paper records

The Alberta government has rolled out a watermarked vaccine passport and QR codes, although the latter cannot be used without an app that is set to come in a few weeks. 

An Alberta Health spokesperson said the province’s official app to scan vaccine QR codes is pending approval by app stores. It also says the watermarked vaccine passport and QR codes aren’t a replacement for other valid forms of proof of vaccination, which have previously been criticized for being easy to forge.

Albertans can continue to use any existing valid form of proof of vaccination, including their paper record from a vaccination provider or a download, screenshot or printed copy of their proof of vaccination, the spokesperson said. 

After Alberta’s paper vaccine passport launched, a cybersecurity expert said the document could easily be edited with Adobe Reader or Photoshop. 

A lack of a provincial QR code system has caused other private proof-of-vaccination apps to come to the forefront.

CBC previously reported on the vaccine passport app which was recommended by Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC). 

But that app, called Portpass, may be easy to manipulate with fake vaccine records and may not securely protect users’ personal information, experts said.

NDP criticizes late app rollout 

On Friday, the NDP critic for economic development, Deron Bilous, criticized what he said is a lack of security associated with using the paper vaccine records. 

“This is just another risk to the public and a risk to people’s health,” he said. 

He also criticized what he says is slow rollout of the app. 

“Today, we know that the QR code has been released. The problem is, without the app to be able to scan the QR code, it’s been rendered useless. And so this is just another example of the frustration that Albertans are feeling,” Bilous said. 

“There is no reason for the delays from the UCP. Other jurisdictions have already moved forward with this and Alberta is falling behind,” he said.

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