Photo/Illutration The smartphone app for a vaccine passport shows a QR code. (Yoshikatsu Nakajima)

The Digital Agency has launched its smartphone app for COVID-19 vaccine passports, but it still faces hurdles to becoming widely adopted.

The app spares people the tedious process of having to go to their local city hall to be issued a vaccine passport, but they must possess My Number identification cards to use it.

Because only about 40 percent of the population currently has My Number cards, it is unclear how many people will download and use the app.

The agency released the app for both iPhone and Android smartphones.

Users need to download it through app stores and then enter a four-digit PIN number. When they present their My Number identification cards to confirm their identities, their smartphones will display their vaccine passports.

Users can hide their QR codes, names or birthdates to protect their personal information.

The government expects the smartphone-based vaccine passports to be used in its “vaccine-and-test package.”

That new effort is aimed at easing restrictions on eating and drinking establishments and event operators by requiring them to ensure that their customers are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19.

Smartphone vaccine passports can also be used as proof of full vaccination when traveling to more than 70 countries or regions, including the United States and South Korea.

However, several issues make it difficult to predict what the uptake of the app will be at the outset.

Not only is it the case that most of the population has not been issued a My Number identification card, but the agency said it still needs to work out how to show the vaccine passports in the app for those whose maiden names as well as their married names are printed on their My Number cards.

Currently, “technical reasons” are preventing that from working properly, sources said.

As of Dec. 19, the app cannot display vaccine passports for residents in almost 170 municipalities because local officials were unable to perform the necessary work in time.

The data used to issue smartphone vaccine passports comes from the inoculation records in the vaccination recording system (VRS) managed by the agency.

But municipal officials across Japan are scrambling to check the accuracy of millions of records in the database. As of Dec. 16, 4.33 million entries required review.