Australia sets out plans for vaccination certificates

By on 08/02/2021 | Updated on 08/02/2021
The Australian government has set out how it will record COVID-19 vaccinations for citizens. Credit: CDC/Unsplash

The Australian government has released details about its plans for vaccination certificates and said it is “highly likely” that such documentation will be needed for international travel into the country. The announcement follows moves by countries including Denmark and Sweden to launch digital vaccine passports.

Australia will use its existing immunisation register to record COVID-19 inoculations. Digital certificates are accessible for citizens on the Express Plus Medicare app, accessed through My Gov, according to Stuart Robert, Minister for Government Services. Since 11% of Australians don’t have a smartphone, he added, hard copies will also be available from providers or Services Australia.

“The vaccination record gets updated with every vaccination you receive. So, after your first dose, you’ll be able to look at your vaccination certificate online, or indeed, go and print it out or the vaccination provider can print it out for you, and you’ll see that it’ll have the first dose, and then you’ll see it’ll have the second dose,” said Robert.

Hank Jongen, general manager at Services Australia, said “critical enhancements” to the Australian Immunisation Register have been made to prepare for the vaccine rollout, reported the Sydney Morning Herald. This includes improving capacity and showing more details about the vaccine that had been administered. Elsewhere, Roberts said that security has been “substantially beefed up”.

International vaccine passports

Robert also said it is “highly likely that a vaccination certificate or quarantine will still be required for international visitors to Australia”. The government will “continue to work with our international counterparts on exactly how we have a framework for vaccination certificates,” he added.

Robert cited a variety of applications including IBM, which is developing its Digital Health Pass Wallet, and CommonPass. The latter is a project by The Commons Project, The World Economic Forum and number of private and public sector organisations to create a common global platform that people use to share information such as tests and vaccinations so they can travel.

The latest news from Australia follows similar announcements by other countries including Iceland, Denmark and Sweden.

On Wednesday last week the Danish acting finance minister Morten Bodskov said the country would have a simple coronavirus vaccine passport by the end of this month – it will take a few more to develop a digital passport. This is essential to open up business travel and the economy. “It is absolutely crucial for us to restart Danish society so that companies can get back on track,” Mr Bodskov told the FT.

Sweden followed with a similar announcement on Thursday last week: the country hopes to have a digital vaccine passport by summer, the FT reports. “When Sweden and countries around us start to open up our societies again, vaccination certificates are likely to be required for travel and possibly for taking part in other activities,” Sweden’s digitalisation minister, Anders Ygeman, told the Guardian.

Island outlook

The messaging from the UK has been more confused. On Friday last week, Foreign Office minister James Cleverley said that officials were looking at how to comply with foreign nations’ requirements for a vaccine to travel.

“We will work with international partners to help facilitate their border arrangements and immigration requirements,” he said in a radio interview.

But yesterday, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi denied that the UK was looking into passports. “We have no plan of introducing a vaccine passport,” he said. Zahawi cited three reasons for this: vaccines are not mandated in the UK, but rather administered by consent; the impact of the vaccines on transmission are as yet unknown; and “it would be discriminatory”. If people needed proof to travel, he added, this could be obtained from their doctor.

About Kate Hodge

Kate is a journalist and editor, holding roles at both the Guardian and the Financial Times. She specialised in education and combines writing, commissioning and editing with social media and audience engagement. If you have any ideas you would like to pitch, or suggestions to improve the website, feel free to email her on [email protected].

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