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‘Makes life easier’: What foreigners in Germany think about the new digital vaccine pass

'Makes life easier': What foreigners in Germany think about the new digital vaccine pass
Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Puchner
Though some internationals faced issues downloading the CovPass app due to its Germany-only App Store settings, the verdict from The Local's readers is clear: a digital Covid vaccine pass could be our ticket to relaxed restrictions and greater freedom.

On June 10th this year, Germany launched its new CovPass app, enabling residents of the country to digitalise their vaccination pass in order to travel more easily around the EU.

READ ALSO: Germany launches new digital Covid health pass

At the time, the Health Ministry claimed the digital vaccination pass would be available to “anyone who wanted it” in pharmacies and GP’s offices by the end of June, offering a “simple, secure and paperless” way to provide proof of vaccination, test results or recovery from Covid-19.

But has the new app delivered on all these promises? And how easy has it been for foreigners to get hold of a digital pass from a local pharmacy – especially if they were vaccinated abroad?

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We set out to discover more in a short survey on the new CovPass.

Here’s what our readers had to say.

More than half ‘all set’ with digital vaccine pass 

Of the 75 respondents to the survey, 56 percent said they were fully vaccinated and had already got their digital vaccine pass at the time of filling in the survey.

Meanwhile, 21.3 percent said they weren’t quite fully vaccinated, but intended to get the digital CovPass as soon as they were. Around 15 percent of people had struggled to get the pass, while a small proportion said they had no plans to get vaccinated.

Easy to get and to use – but some problems with foreign vaccine certificates 

The general consensus among respondents who had secured their vaccine pass in the CovPass app was that the process for obtaining one was pretty straightforward.
 
“Easy to go to the chemist with your vaccine pass, get QR, open the app and scan it,” said 73-year-old Teresa Ann Moore.
 
Aaldert Oosthuizen, 47, who lives in Munich, also described the app as “easy to get and to use”.
 
“It’s very easy and intuitive,” agreed 24-year-old Nicolas Moreira, who lives in Darmstadt.
 
Several people who had been vaccinated abroad reported that they had been able to get their digital vaccine certificate without any major hurdles.
 
“After reading an article on The Local which recommended trying multiple pharmacies if the first one refuses, I decided to try my luck and had no problem at all getting approved with my US/CDC card,” said 39-year-old Freiburg resident Megan Reynolds.
 
 
This wasn’t the case for everyone, however. Lauren Eastwood, who lives in Duisburg, said that the pharmacies she had visited had “balked” at her US vaccine certificate, making it an uphill struggle to obtain the EU-wide pass.
 
“I’m concerned that pharmacists are resisting anything that isn’t identified as legitimate by the government,” she added. “There should be clear rules in place for allowing vaccinations from other countries to be imported into the pass.”
 
Virgil, 45, had similar problems getting his Romanian vaccination recognised in his current home city of Munich.
 
“It is not possible where I live,” he told us. “The doctors refuse to issue the German digital pass for a Romanian vaccination proof. We are waiting for the European pass to be issued.”
 
Some respondents also questioned why it was necessary to get the vaccine booklet and the digital certificate in two separate stages.
 
“It should not be necessary to go to a pharmacy to get your confirmation of full vaccination into the app,” said Richard Peach, 65, from Dortmund. “All doctors should be issued with the means to do this straight after your second vaccination.”
 
 
This could, however, have changed over the past few weeks: information on the CovPass website now states that doctors’ surgeries are able to provide QR codes for the digital pass. 
 
Makes life easier for the vaccinated
 
When asked if they were in favour of Germany’s digital vaccine pass, several people commented on the difference that it would make to their lives. 
 
“This makes life easier for everyone, I think,” said Leipzig resident Demi Pasaoglu.  
 
“I’m absolutely in favour of it,” added 34-year-old Dan-Radu Hadarean, who lives in Frankfurt-am-Main. “Whatever makes it easier to get over the restrictions.”
 
Ronny Reed, 56, who lives in the small town of Riedstadt near Darmstadt, said he had enjoyed using his new digital pass when going out to dine with his wife. 
 
“We showed the pass, were seated and the food was on its way,” he said.
 

The digital CovPass can be used to dine in the inside areas of bars and restaurants. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Roland Weihrauch
 
Others were just keen to have a means of visiting friends and family in their home country after being unable to see them for so long.
 
“If it means I can travel back to Ireland from Germany more easily I welcome these types of transparent methods of keeping us all safe,” said David Power, a 34-year-old Berlin resident.
 
“I miss my mother and father a lot and haven’t been home since the pandemic started.”
 
Safer than the yellow booklet
 
Several respondents liked the idea of digitalising the pass to protect against the loss or theft of the paper version. 
 
“Carrying the yellow passbook around is worrying in case it gets damaged or stolen,” said Richard Peach, while Mary Weissig, 63, who lives in Nuremberg, said she prefers to carry “as few documents as possible” while out and about. 
 
Bavaria resident Andrew McCandlish, 47, agreed: “It saves from me having to carry around my vaccination book,” he told us. 

App Store issues

While getting hold of the pass in pharmacies generally wasn’t a problem for people, several readers complained that the country settings on their phone had meant they were unable to download the CovPass app.  
 
“I was vaccinated in the US and got the QR code with no issue from a local pharmacy as soon as they were made available in Germany,” said Charlotte C., 33, who lives in Berlin. “However, as I’m unable to change my App store country settings, I cannot install the available apps for uploading my vaccine status.”
 
As a work around, Charlotte says she has scanned a PDF of the certificate into her phone to show at places like cinemas and indoor restaurants, where proof of vaccination or a negative test is required. However, she’s unsure if this would work for overseas travel. 
 
 
“When it comes to intra-EU flights there’s still an incredible discrepancy in how different countries are handling paperwork, requirements, and testing,” she said. “Practically speaking, the vaccine certificate hasn’t reduced any requirements or confusion thus far in terms of travel.”
 
 
Meghan Reynolds was also afflicted by the CovApp’s limited availability on the international App Store. 
 
“With the actual paperwork given by the pharmacy, I have had no issues providing proof of vaccination,” she told us.
 
“However, I was not able to download the app because it was not available in my area. Although it’s a German phone, my Apple ID is American.
 
“While I find it ridiculous, my boyfriend was able to scan it into his phone, and take a screenshot which I’ve stored in my photos. It has my name and is still readable by any scanner so hopefully it’s a good work-around, but I am carrying the paperwork verification with me just in case.”
 

Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) shows the CovPass on his phone. At present, the app is only available in German. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler
 
Josh, who lives in Kaiserslautern in Rhineland-Palatinate, also criticised the ‘Germany-only’ availability of the app.
 
“I have been able to get registered in the system, but have not been able to download the app due to it not being available in the international Apple App Store – it’s only available in the German regional store,” he said.
 
“They should make the app available on the international store like the Dutch, Swiss, UK, Luxembourg and other country apps are.” 
 
Ted, 36, who lives in Hamburg, was one of a handful of respondents who criticised the app’s restricted language settings.
 
“The CovPass app is only available in German,” he said. “It would be helpful if it had the ability to switch languages for the interface,” 
 
“There should be better education for the pharmacists so they know that they can issue QR codes for those vaccinated elsewhere – with Germany’s approved vaccines, of course,” said Katie M., 58, Munich. “And I sure wish they would make Corona-Warn available in the US App Store.”

Data protection concerns 

With the move to a digitalised system, some readers were concerned at how their data might be used if they switched to the app – and whether the government might then have a means of “tracking” them.

“I will not have an app as it can track me,” said one anonymous respondent. “I will carry a paper negative test.” 

Some of the respondents who voiced privacy concerns about the app said they were also worried about the safety of the vaccines. 

“I’ve got no plans to use a tool to enable tracking of my movements,” said Phil Cooper, who lives in Schömberg and says he won’t be getting vaccinated due to concerns about side effects. 

“I’m not at all in favour of [the digital pass],” he added. “It’s just another means of collecting data on people.”


Some readers are concerned about data privacy in the app, but the government say they have implemented strong protection measures. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

“They cannot get security right,” said Marcus Wongyai, 60, from Berlin. “The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation is a minimum and people think it protects more than it really does.”
 
But other people felt that the alleged privacy issues of the digital vaccine passport had been overstated.
 
 
“I think many people are worried about the data that is collected from the phone but I think they need to change,” said 28-year-old Vishal, who lives in Dresden. “It doesn’t take sensitive or private content. There is enough data protection.”
 
“It’s a great idea and is well implemented,” said 36-year-old Berliner Andrew. “The stored data is a transparent open standard, which is a practical consideration in privacy-conscious Germany and is far better than relying on single businesses as providers.”
 
On the CovPass website, the government has sought to reassure people who may have privacy concerns.
 
According to information on the site, vaccination data is only stored locally on your phone, while the QR code only contains minimal data and is secured with a signature that prevents counterfeiting.
 

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