digital vaccine phone illustration

Alum creates cutting-edge proof of vaccination for Californians

September 21, 2021


When Rick Klau, a law school grad and chief technology innovation officer for the state of California, got his first COVID-19 vaccine shot, he put the CDC vaccination card in his wallet. Then, he realized how easy it would be to lose it.

“To me, it appeared obvious that the paper CDC card was likely to get lost, left at home, or destroyed in the laundry — making it difficult, if not impossible, for residents to prove their vaccination status,” Klau said.  

His next thought: “I can fix that.”

“We wanted to give California residents a digital copy of their vaccination record — but how?” Klau said. He and his team looked at several possibilities, but landed on SMART health cards, digital records that include health information such as test results and vaccinations. A number of states use the same system, which allows users to save all their information on a phone or computer and print a copy if needed.

His team released the digital COVID-19 vaccine record portal in June. The system gives Californians a digital record that includes a QR code to verify vaccination status if a business requests it before entering. Within two weeks, they delivered more than 1 million digital vaccine records to California residents.

“I'm thrilled to share that a growing number of states have followed our lead, along with pharmacies and health systems,” Klau said.​ “More than 100 million Americans now have access to a SMART Health Card. Not only is it easy for residents to share their records, ​it's also easy for businesses and employers to verify the accuracy of those records.”

Klau said his time at the University of Richmond taught him to step up and take risks, which has served him well professionally, especially when it came to fighting the pandemic.

“UR encouraged me to try new things and to engage my curiosity,” he said. “I learned that success rarely comes from solitary endeavors. I collaborate regularly with agencies and departments to solve problems for the nearly 40 million residents of California. My time at UR paved the way for me to take ideas and shape them into impactful technological outcomes.”

Before joining the California Department of Technology, Klau served multiple roles, including senior operating partner at Google Ventures. Klau graduated from the Richmond School of Law in 1996, and established the Journal of Law & Technology at UR as his first entrepreneurial endeavor in 1995.