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.)
Vaccine passports are shortly to become the next digital battleground in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but unfortunately they are likely to be as divisive as contact tracing apps have been so far. Various Australian states and territories are expected to release details on exactly how these passports will work in a domestic sense in the next couple of weeks, with a national standard for vaccine passports for international travel still a bit up in the air.
Services Australia has done a pretty good job in getting vaccine certificates quickly available on the Medicare Express Plus app – they are also available on My Health Record, although few seem to be going there – and mandatory reporting to the Australian Immunisation Register is very much helping to make this process seamless. However, the PDF versions of the certificate on the Express Plus app have repeatedly been shown to be easily hacked, with fraudulent copies easily created, so the existing solution is obviously not one that can be used as a passport without a few fixes being made very quickly.