Could a digital vaccination certificate become an Australian 'passport'?

Vaccination certificates are increasingly being considered as a way of opening up borders and travel. But could the unvaccinated be banned from events or businesses? Maria O’Sullivan explores the issue.

Could a digital vaccination certificate

A corona passport at a Netherlands airport.

Vaccine passports are an increasingly likely proposition in Australia.

Last week, national cabinet “welcomed” a new COVID-19 digital vaccination certificate, which will be made available through the Medicare app or myGov.

This week, government services minister Linda Reynolds confirmed Australians who have had two doses would be able to access a certificate. Australians are already able to see their immunisation history online. But the new certificate will only show COVID vaccination status, so it could easily be turned into a “passport”.

Countries all over the world are currently developing digital vaccination passports to facilitate international travel.

In Australia, we are also discussing whether they can be used to open up interstate movement (which will depend on the agreement of state and territory authorities).

However, there is also a legal question as to whether these vaccination certificates can be used for other purposes.

Could businesses ask to see the passport to prevent unvaccinated people from entering restaurants, shops, theatres and other venues? If so, what issues would this raise?

What are vaccine passports?

Vaccine passports are certificates that show the holder has been immunised against COVID-19. Currently they are being developed primarily for travel. For instance, the European Union is set to make available its COVID vaccination passport for all EU citizens and residents by July 1.

Could a digital vaccination certificate

The certificate is designed to allow freedom of movement within the EU by allowing holders to avoid internal travel restrictions, such as entry bans and quarantine obligations.

Every certificate will contain a unique QR code which will allow verification of its authenticity, the digital signature and the vaccination details (the name of the vaccine and manufacturer, number of doses administered and the date(s) of vaccination).

A passport to dine out?

In addition to travel, other countries have taken a further step and started using vaccination certificates for internal purposes, such as entry into restaurants and events.

For instance, Israel started a “green pass” system earlier this year, which allowed vaccinated people access to theatres, concert halls, indoor restaurants and bars.

People would show the “green pass” on an app to gain entry to places. The app could also display proof someone had recovered from COVID-19.

With most adults in Israel now vaccinated, the government retired the pass last week.

But before this, the pass raised privacy concerns. For instance, Orr Dunkelman, a Privacy Israel board member, argued the certificate revealed information that was not necessary for others to know, such as the date a person recovered from COVID or received the vaccine.

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