Does NSW get a pass on vaccine passports?
Vaccine passes were back in the news this week as Victor Dominello, NSW Minister for Customer Service – yes, that is his real title – got on the blower to spread the word that the NSW government will trial an addition to the existing Service NSW app that will draw down data from the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) and allow fully vaccinated NSW residents free movement within the state.
While a PDF of the vaccine certificate is currently available through the Express Plus Medicare app – and My Health Record, although no one ever mentions this – the idea behind the NSW system is that it will be added to an already widely used app that also allows people to check into venues, so users only need to open the one app. Security will be similar to what already covers NSW’s digital driver’s licences, and so should be exceptionally good. (The PDF can also be downloaded to the Apple Wallet and Google Pay, too, which is useful.)
Whether it can be transferred for the use of other jurisdictions is another matter, but it’s good to see NSW getting on with the job. How it translates to the rest of the country, however, is still unknown, and this is a problem. Most of the other states and territories use a version of the Check-in CBR app developed by the ACT, which works very well but is fundamentally just a simple, although very effective, QR code-based app.
It seems unlikely that vaccine certificates can be added to it easily or securely, so a national solution really does need to be put forward, but any news on this from the federal government has not been forthcoming. Not everyone has the Medicare app and not everyone has a My Health Record, and while there is the option of requesting a print-out of the certificate, the whole “show me your papers, please” nature of that exercise is quite disconcerting.
How an actual vaccine passport that will allow international travel is also still not yet fully fleshed out. There are several solutions in the offing – the EU system, the US SMART card solution, IATA’s recommendation – but we have heard nothing in terms of national leadership on how this will work out. If you know, let us in on the story. Similarly with non-NSW state-based vaccine passes: what are the solutions being discussed? If you know, let us know too.
In the meantime, our healthcare workers keep plugging away, supported by the great majority of people despite the rabble infesting Melbourne this week. We were most pleased to learn that the NZ Ministry of Health, unlike its counterparts in Australia, has been happy to open up a data feed to consumer-surfaced sites like Time in the Line, and we were thrilled to hear this week about a COVID data tracking site set up by a few young lads in Australia called CovidBaseAU. The lads in question have revealed themselves as two 15-year-olds and one a year younger and all three have proudly received their first Moderna dose. Absolute champs.
That brings us to our poll question for this week. We recently asked if we need an agreed, standards-based solution for vaccine passports, and most said yes, but that doesn’t seem to be useful for domestic purposes, with NSW going down its own path. So, this week we ask:
Do we need a national solution for domestic vaccine passports?
Last week, we asked if our health departments had been agile enough in adapting IT systems for the pandemic. 36 per cent said yes, our state health departments were agile enough, but 64 per cent said no.