Apps help users show Covid-19 vaccination status, search for like minds

A pharmacy technician loads a syringe with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site (Photo: AP)
A pharmacy technician loads a syringe with Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination site (Photo: AP)


Spread of ‘vaccinated’ badges on user profiles might influence others to get the jab, digital experience designers say

More smartphone apps are adding features that let people display their Covid-19 vaccination status and search for other users and businesses that favor vaccines.

Dating app Grindr LLC said that starting in September, it will let users add their vaccination status to their profiles and filter their searches to find other vaccinated people. Vacation-home rental company Vrbo, part of Expedia Group Inc., this fall plans to enable hosts on its platform to share their requirements for renters to be vaccinated against, or tested for, Covid-19.

And OpenTable Inc., whose dining-reservation service already lets restaurants display Covid-19 vaccine requirements, this month added a “verified for entry" tag that patrons can get by showing proof of vaccination, for example, to any participating restaurant. Starting next month, OpenTable will also let users get the tag by obtaining a digital vaccine card from Clear, a platform operated by Secure Identity LLC.

The moves follow similar initiatives from companies including dating apps Hinge Inc. and Match Group LLC’s Tinder, which allow users to share their vaccination status on their profiles, and reviews company Yelp Inc., which added two filters that let users search for restaurants where the staff is fully vaccinated or businesses that require proof of vaccination from customers.

Some of the new features cater to users who want to avoid close contact with unvaccinated people, while others are designed to help individuals follow local governments’ new vaccine requirements amid the surge in Covid-19 cases tied to the Delta variant. Cities such as New York and San Francisco, for example, now require proof of vaccination for indoor activities.

“It really is trying to be the most helpful tool we can be to our restaurants and also to our diners, because things are changing quickly," said Debby Soo, chief executive of OpenTable, which is part of Booking Holdings Inc. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to go out and dine or get takeout, and for restaurants to continue to pivot and survive this pandemic," Ms. Soo added.

The spread of “vaccinated" badges on user profiles might influence others to get vaccinated, according to digital experience designers, who call the phenomenon “social proof."

“If more people potentially demonstrate that they’re vaccinated, that might have a really good impact on encouraging other people to get vaccinated, because of that social proof—you start to see that that’s becoming a norm," said Amy Lokey, senior vice president and head of global design at ServiceNow, Inc., which has developed a cloud-based platform to help companies manage digital workflows.

Many of the features rely on people to self-report their vaccination statuses, however, leaving room for users to misrepresent themselves, designers said.

“Vaccinated" stickers on dating platforms’ user profiles can be faked by adding a copy of the sticker to a profile photo, for instance.

“It is almost like the floodgates are open for potential bad players," said Alex Levin, founding partner and strategy director of L+R, a design and tech consulting firm.

On the flip side, Mr. Levin said, business owners might not think of immediately updating their profile pages on Yelp or OpenTable with their vaccine requirements, relying on a physical sign on the door instead.

The latest technology fixes could end up falling to the wayside like Covid-19 exposure-notification apps did, said Albert Fox Cahn, founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a New York-based privacy and civil rights group.

But many of the features are a step in the right direction, Mr. Cahn said.

“One thing that’s nice about some of the vaccine credentials on dating apps, restaurant apps, is that we know it is a trust exercise," he said. “We know that it is about trying to build a sense of community solidarity to get vaccinated."

Catch all the Technology News and Updates on Live Mint. Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates & Live Business News.


Switch to the Mint app for fast and personalized news - Get App