Govt’s vaccination certificate app goes into operation

The Yomiuri Shimbun
This government’s app that issues COVID-19 vaccination certificates can be downloaded via app stores for free.

The government on Monday launched a smartphone app to issue COVID-19 vaccination certificates electronically, albeit with some hiccups.

The app can be downloaded free of charge on smartphone app stores, but My Number identification cards are necessary to obtain the certificates.

Some local governments were unable to make preparations by Monday to issue the certificates using the app. The certificates also cannot be issued via the app if there are errors or omissions in the information registered in the government’s Vaccination Record System (VRS).

After the app is downloaded, applicants must enter their four-digit personal identification numbers that they set for their My Number card and scan the card with their smartphones.

The procedures connect them to the VRS, allowing vaccination certificates to be displayed on the screen. Passports are also needed to issue vaccination certificates for overseas travel. The certificates will be displayed in about 30 seconds after the entry of required information is completed.

As of Sunday, about 170 municipalities, including Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo; Kadoma, Osaka Prefecture; and Onojo, Fukuoka Prefecture, were not ready for issuances via the app, according to the Digital Agency.

People who do not have a smartphone or My Number Card can obtain paper vaccination certificates issued at their local government office.

Series of registration errors

Before the government’s app went into operation, a series of errors and omissions were found in the information registered in the VRS.

In preparation for the app’s launch, the city government of Toda, Saitama Prefecture, began cross-checking the records registered in the VRS of about 90,000 people who had been vaccinated twice with preliminary examination forms that they submitted when receiving the shots.

As of Wednesday, the city government found that the dates of vaccinations and other information had been incorrectly entered for about 4,800 people, which accounted for 5% of the total. But it managed to correct the data.

The central government had asked local governments to check records in the VRS in September.

“I wish the government informed us earlier, as we had to check records of all the vaccinated residents,” said an official of the Toda city government.

According to the Digital Agency, about 100,000 people nationwide needed to have their records in the VRS corrected as of Thursday. In many cases, the date of the second vaccination is earlier than that of the first one, or the lot number of the vaccine is incorrect.

In addition, the records of about 4.33 million people were given “confirmation required” status, which is likely to involve registration errors.

There were also some errors that appear to have been attributable to special devices provided by the central government.

Local governments assign each resident a 10-digit vaccination voucher number, which is registered in the VRS along with the resident’s name in advance.

At a vaccination site, the vaccination voucher number and six-digit municipality number are read by the camera of one of these special devices, and the resident’s vaccination is recorded in the VRS. However, there have been many cases in which the numbers 3 and 5 were mistaken for each other, as well as 1 and 7.

If the vaccination voucher number is incorrectly entered, the information will be overwritten on the record of a different person. If the municipality number is wrong, a record showing “inoculator unknown” will be created for a different municipality.

Such cases could have been prevented if barcodes, which are more accurate, were used. However, a Digital Agency official said, “In the beginning, all vaccination vouchers issued nationwide carried only numbers, such as voucher numbers, so we adopted a specification to read numbers.”

The central government hopes the app will be widely used, as it intends not to restrict the number of people in restaurants and events even under a state of emergency if they prove they have been vaccinated using the app or other means.