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Anatomy of a Vaccine Proof QR Code

The QR code which stands for Quick Response code is a type of barcode that can be read with a mobile device screen or printed on paper. It was created by a Japanese engineer from Toyota in the 90’s to follow the route of spare parts in factories. The advantage of the QR code is its ease and speed of use and creation. It can be decoded quickly and can store more information than a traditional barcode and especially data directly recognized by applications. This is why many countries have adopted this technology to create digital vaccine proof on the recommendation of the WHO and the VCI in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic where responsiveness and efficiency are key words. 

The information contained in an Akinox vaccine proof QR code

Since the beginning of the global vaccination campaign against COVID-19, the QR code has been chosen by many countries to offer a digital alternative to the paper vaccination certificate received during a vaccination against COVID-19 for convenience. One of the advantages of the digital format is that access is available should the paper version be lost. The information contained in these QR codes for proof of vaccination is reduced to a minimum.

In Québec, for example, the proof of vaccination QR code contains the same information as a paper version given at the health center where a COVID-19 vaccine  was administered:  

  • Name
  • First name
  • Date of birth
  • Date, place, vaccine name and batch of the vaccine received


Encryption versus encoding

When we mention a QR code, some people may think by default that it is encrypted. However, an Akinox QR code used as digital proof of vaccination is not “encrypted” but “encoded”. The distinction is very important. What this means is that although the information it contains is not visible to the naked eye, it is not encrypted for obvious reasons of use. This is because vaccine proof QR codes need to be decipherable for readability and interoperability across countries and regions. However, they are ” encoded ” i.e. they include a security key that acts as an electronic signature making them tamper-proof. Lastly, since vaccine proof QR codes are mostly designed to be read offline (mainly to bypass internet access issues), encryption could give a false sense of security because in this case, the decryption key would have to be in the reader and therefore easily accessible to hackers.


WHO and VCI recommended international technology for vaccine proof QR codes

Akinox vaccine proof QR codes have been designed according to an international standard, the HL7 FHIR Smart Health Card (SHC) according to the WHO recommendations on SVC: Smart Vaccination Certificates. It is a documented and open format, which is widely adopted and has proven itself in many European countries and several jurisdictions around the world when it comes to vaccine proof. Did you know that Québec, with its more than 7 million QR codes generated, was the first jurisdiction to issue so many QR codes according to this standard, becoming a leader in the movement?

As one of the pioneers in issuing proof of vaccination QR codes according to this international standard, Akinox was invited by the  Vaccination Credential Initiative to share its work alongside the State of California, Apple and Walmart,and was also invited on a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine with representatives from the State of New York, California, CDC Africa, IATA, and the Linux Public Health Foundation.


Data Security for Vaccine Proof QR Codes

The technological development of the QR codes for vaccine proofing purposes are carried out in close collaboration with global experts in cybersecurity, privacy and protection of personal information. Privacy and protection of citizens’ personal information are central to the development of these codes. The technology used is a secure technology that assesses risk and ensures the protection of citizens’ personal information during its use. The QR code solution used in Québec, for example, is comparable to that used in many other countries around the world, especially in Europe, and complies with the international standards.


An essential reminder of good practice

It is important to remember that a proof of vaccination QR code must be protected by its holder, in the same way as a driver’s license or a social insurance number. Just as no one would share this information on social media or via email, it’s important that every person protects this tool. For more information on the Québec government’s recommendations for citizens regarding the protection of their vaccination proof QR code visit:

The proof of vaccination QR code is another great example of the use of technology in the service of healthcare. Be aware, however, not to confuse it with a vaccine passport, which refers more to its use. The digital proof of vaccination is the QR code received after obtaining a vaccine against COVID-19, whereas in Québec, for example, the vaccination passport is the same QR code, whose information has been imported into the VaxiCode application. One of the advantages of the vaccine passport is that it reveals less personal information than the digital proof of vaccination. According to the Québec government, the implementation of a vaccine passport could help avoid widespread confinement and maintain commercial activities.

Discover in detail our contribution to the effort against COVID-19 through our Pandemic platform:

The Quebec Governement optimized its public health response capabilities with help from Akinox