Australia has joined the list of countries to introduce a digital COVID-19 vaccination certificate. Currently, those who have had both doses of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine can obtain one as evidence that they are fully immunized against coronavirus.
It is expected that this certificate is a step towards allowing people to travel without restrictions.
Travel health certificates are widely viewed as the way to reopen the world after the pandemic. Various countries, including the EU, China, and the Philippines have launched their own schemes and Australia looks set to follow.
The vaccination drive in the country has recently accelerated. Over 5,850,000 doses have been administered so far, with an average of 774,000 doses a week. There is a growing demand for vaccinated Australians to be allowed greater levels of freedom of movement.
Australia’s COVID-19 Digital Certificate is available to Australian citizens and residents and will likely be used for travel in the near future, similar to the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC).
What Does the Australian COVID-19 Digital Certificate Show?
The Australian COVID-19 Digital Certificate is accessed via an app or online. The digital nature of the document allows holders to present it on a mobile device. It contains the individual’s vaccination information and little else.
The electronic document contains a coat-of-arms hologram. It shows the following information:
- Date of birth
- Vaccination status
- A ‘validity tick’
The certificate is only available to people who have been vaccinated with both doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. At present these include the following:
Other vaccines may be approved by Australia in the future.
The digital certificate will not show any information about non-COVID vaccinations. Indeed, Australians do not have to share any of their other health data.
Federal Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds said “We’re also giving people control over the level of vaccination history they share, as the certificate only shows your COVID-19 vaccination status.”
How to Get the Australian COVID-19 Digital Certificate
The Australian COVID-19 digital certificate is automatically generated after a patient has been vaccinated in Australia. Once both doses have been given to the individual, the vaccine provider registers the vaccination with the digital system.
The certificate can be accessed through the Express Plus Medicare app or online through MyGov. It can be downloaded to a device such as a smartphone or tablet.
Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen announced that an individual’s Medicare account must be linked to MyGov in order to access the vaccine certificate.
According to Federal Government Services Minister Linda Reynolds, “‘Once your provider has reported both doses of an approved vaccine, you’ll be able to access your COVID-19 digital certificate online through myGov or in the Express Plus Medicare app.”
Will the Australian COVID-19 Digital Certificate Allow International Travel?
At present, the Australian COVID-19 Digital Certificate does not allow holders to avoid travel restrictions. It simply serves as proof that the individual has been vaccinated against coronavirus.
Mr Jongen has said that it is too early to know if the new certificate can be used as a pass for traveling abroad or to and from high-risk areas within Australia.
However, it is expected that this is the endgame of the certificate scheme.
Australia has watched as countries around the world have launched similar schemes to restart international travel, with the Philippines’ e-CIF and Spain’s FCS being prime examples.
It is likely that Australia will follow a similar path and allow individuals with a certificate to bypass some, if not all, of the current coronavirus travel restrictions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has stated that he believes “Australians would support” a certificate-based system of travel as an alternative to restrictions from COVID hotspots.
It is still unclear whether Australia will begin to accept foreigners with vaccination certificates issued by other countries across its borders. However, it is likely that such an agreement will be made if destinations around the world accept the Australian COVID-19 Digital Certificate for restriction-free entry.
The Vaccination Situation in Australia
Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout is well underway and picking up speed.
Daily vaccinations in Victoria have more than tripled, with around 25,000 people per day on average since May 27 when the state was put back into lockdown.
Similarly, vaccinations in New South Wales rose from 3,500 to 11,500 doses administered per day between May 10 and June 6.
More than 600,000 Australians have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine and are considered fully immunized.
With this number growing, many are calling for greater travel freedom for vaccinated individuals.
“For the first time since March of last year, we might have a situation where people can leave their community with no COVID, go to an area which has some COVID, and return home with relatively few restrictions and still be protecting their community,” said Professor Sanjaya Senanayake of The Australian National University.
The Sydney Morning Herald has also taken up the call, writing:
“Vaccinated Australians want more freedom, like being exempt from state border restrictions, or being able to go overseas, or quarantine at home after international travel. There is a strong argument to grant this freedom, as a reward for doing the right thing and protecting the community, and as an incentive for those who are yet to receive their two shots.”
The COVID-19 Digital Certificate certainly lays the groundwork for making this possible. Soon, it may become a reality.