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How can Australians prove their COVID vaccination status?


Jolyon Attwooll


13/10/2021 3:27:13 PM

General practices are fielding questions on proving vaccination status and vaccine passports. newsGP looks at some common queries.

A COVID-19 digital certificate on a smartphone.
An example of what the COVID-19 digital certificate could look like. (Image: Services Australia)

This article was updated on 15 October 2021 to reflect new information received from state governments about the use of the COVID-19 digital certificate in check-in apps.

With New South Wales already in the process of opening up following a prolonged lockdown, and metropolitan Melbourne preparing to follow suit, the need for people to prove their vaccination status is in the spotlight. These are among the most frequent questions.
 
How can patients get proof of their vaccination status?
Services Australia is encouraging people to access their vaccination proof online, either through a COVID-19 digital certificate or Immunisation History Statement (IHS). Both should appear via the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) shortly after patients receive their second vaccination dose – although this has not always worked smoothly.
 
Both are available online through Medicare and can be accessed via the patient’s myGov account.
 
Patients should be able to view PDFs of the Immunisation History Statement or the COVID-19 digital certificate here and print them off if required.
 
Proof of vaccination is also available through My Health Record.
 
Those without Medicare can get proof but will need an Individual Healthcare Identifier.
 
What about through smartphones?
Perhaps the easiest way – and one which will be valid across the country – is through the Medicare Express Plus app.
 
Patients will need to link their myGov account to Medicare for this to work. Once downloaded the app requires a PIN for access.
 
Both the Immunisation History Statement and COVID-19 digital certificate can be viewed under ‘Proof of vaccinations’ in the app. There is an option to save this to your digital wallet on your smartphone.
 
There is another option to share with state-specific check-in apps. Only Services Victoria is currently available (see ‘What about vaccine passports?’ section below), but this is likely to expand.
 
What about patients without the internet/a smartphone?
This has already been a widely reported issue.
 
Services Australia advises people without internet access to request a copy of their IHS through their vaccine providers – in many cases, general practices. Many general practices are issuing instructions at the time of vaccination and encouraging patients who are not confident online or with smartphones to seek help from a family member.
 
People who cannot get their vaccination proof online are also directed to call the AIR (1800 653 809) for their IHS or COVID-19 digital certificate. Delays are likely using this route (a trial call made by newsGP took 18 minutes to be connected) and as long as the need to prove vaccination status grows, the long-waiting times are likely to remain.
 
It will also take up to 14 days for the statement or certificate to arrive by post.
 
What about digital passports?
While all states officially agreed to implement digital passports in their check-in apps at a National Cabinet meeting last month, there appears to be varied appetite for putting them in place – and different views on how long they will be required.
 
At least two states, New South Wales and Victoria, are already actively working the COVID-19 digital certificate proof into their smartphone check-in apps, although NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet this week suggested the passports will ‘serve a short-term purpose’ only.

Vaccine-passport-article.jpg
The Department of Health has said an Immunisation History Statement can also be used as proof of vaccination.
 
Here is the latest status for all the states and territories:
 
Australian Capital Territory
The ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has signalled that he is not in favour of vaccine passports being a requirement given the territory’s high vaccination rates. There is ongoing debate about their implementation.

There has been no response to a newsGP inquiry so far. 
 
New South Wales
The NSW government confirmed on 15 October that residents across the state can now integrate the COVID-19 digital vaccination certificate into the Service NSW app.

It follows a small-scale trial in Tamworth, Port Macquarie, Wagga Wagga and Lismore. Its use will not be mandatory.

See instructions for how to add a COVID-19 digital certificate to the Service NSW app here.
 
Northern Territory
A territory spokesperson told newsGP that the Territory Check In app will eventually be upgraded to link to the digital vaccination certificate, allowing vaccinated people a so-called 'Freedom Pass' in the event of future lockdowns. See more details of the territory's plan here.
 
Queensland
No plans have yet been confirmed. A Queensland Health spokesperson would not comment when approached by newsGP.
 
South Australia
The State Government has not yet suggested it will require vaccination proof for local activities. However, Premier Steven Marshall has indicated vaccination passports will be included in the mySA GOV app currently used for QR code check-ins. 

Tasmania
Again, there are no definite plans in place, although Tasmania has worked alongside Victoria and the Northern Territory in a National Cabinet subcommittee on the issue, indicating a readiness to introduce them.

The state's health department has not responded so far to a newsGP inquiry. 
 
Victoria
The state has the most widespread use of the COVID-19 digital certificate to date. A trial is underway in regional areas including Bass Coast, Greater Bendigo, Pyrenees, Warrnambool, Buloke and East Gippsland using the state’s check-in app.
 
While not yet in use in locked-down metropolitan Melbourne, anyone using the Services Victoria app can now link it to their COVID-19 digital certificate. Instructions on how to do so are available on the Services Victoria website. It is probably easiest to do so using the Medicare Express Plus App.
 
However, developers have raised concerns the certificate, which uses hologram animations, could be easily faked for the app.
 
Western Australia
Nothing is in place yet, but the Premier Mark McGowan has indicated a vaccine passport system will be used.
A spokesperson for WA Health told newsGP that COVID-19 vaccine passports, or a similar model, would only be used in WA once the vaccination rate is higher.

'Details are currently being worked through with no indicative timing for when the measure would be implemented,' the spokesperson said.
 
What happens if immunisation details are wrong?
It is a legal requirement for all vaccine providers to upload details of COVID-19 vaccinations to the AIR. If there has been a mistake and the vaccine provider is unable to help, people are again directed to call the AIR (1800 653 809).
 
What if patients have had mixed doses, or been vaccinated overseas?
While concerns have been raised about patients who have had mixed doses (ie two different vaccines) – through no fault of their own – Services Australia says both the COVID-19 digital certificate and the IHS can be used.
 
‘If you’ve had mixed doses of approved vaccines, you can use your COVID-19 digital certificate or Immunisation History Statement as proof,’ the Services Australia website reads.
 
While newsGP understands a COVID-19 digital certificate is not generated in these circumstances, the history statement should now be accepted at venues. Vaccination providers can now add approved vaccines, including those not administered in the country, to the AIR.
 
What about children?
If children under 14 have been vaccinated, parents or guardians should be able to access their COVID-19 Digital Certificate or IHS through their own Medicare account. Those aged 14 and above will need to access their own account or set one up.
 
How long will vaccinated status last?
There is no timescale yet for how long vaccinated status will last, but that is likely to evolve – particularly as evidence emerges on waning immunity, and if the Federal Government confirms any plans to initiate a booster program
 
Will travellers need to download all the different state apps?
No. People may wish to for the sake of convenience when state borders open in order to check in to venues with the state-specific apps. However, those comfortable with smartphones should be able to access a valid digital certificate accepted throughout the country to prove their status, or use a printed version at each venue.
 
What about international vaccine passports?
An internationally recognised COVID-19 vaccination certificate is in the pipeline to facilitate overseas travel.
 
‘The proof of vaccination for international travel will include a QR code that is readable globally, and will comply with the standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation,’ the Prime Minister’s website reads.
 
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AIR Australian Immunisation Register COVID-19 digital certificate vaccine passport


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Rural GP   15/10/2021 10:14:11 AM

As a GP providing these clinics, this is vert frustrating. We are victims of poor government administration. We are again overwhelmed with phone calls : premature missed messaging about boosters/3rd doses and then expecting GP’s to facilitate patients through multiple websites. This is not our job! We give vaccines and register with AIR. DONE! C’mon NSW HEALTH, C’mon Medicare fix the problem. AMA and RACGP advocate for us. We fixed the rollout. Do we have to fix this as well?


Dr Peter JD Spafford   15/10/2021 9:59:02 PM

And so the Government is expecting personal and therefore confidential information to be made available to ......... whoever asks for it.......eligibility to go somewhere ..... ????