The federal government has launched digital certificates for Australians to show on their smartphones to prove they have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine digital certificate will be available through myGov and the Medicare apps, with vaccination providers also able to print out or send the certificate to individuals without access to a phone or the internet.
The certificate will be facilitated through the Australian Immunisation Register, but will be separate from other vaccinations received by an individual, with only information relating to the COVID-19 vaccination included.
Parliament recently passed laws making it mandatory for information to be recorded on the immunisation register after an individual has received a vaccine. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccination is still voluntary.
Government services minister Linda Reynolds launched the digital certificates on Wednesday morning, after they were first flagged by the government in early February.
“The COVID-19 digital certificate makes proof of vaccination accessible anytime, anywhere. We’re also giving people control over the level of vaccination history they share, as the certificate only shows your COVID-19 vaccination status,” Ms Reynolds said.
“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.
“We’re guaranteeing everyone in Australia can get free COVID-19 vaccinations and making sure you can easily show proof of your immunisation. It’s all about making government services simpler for all Australians, and this new immunisation certificate is a great example.”
The announcement of the digital certificate earlier this year led to a number of concerns around privacy and risks it will transform into another tech wreck.
Shadow social services minister Linda Burney expressed support for the concept at the time, but raised concerns over privacy and the government’s tech capability.
“I know there are issues around privacy that need to be considered. The government’s record in terms of digital applications is not a good reputation, in the sense of robodebt, in the sense of information about Medicare cards being available on the dark web,” Ms Burney said in February.
At the time, Deakin University senior lecturer Dr Monique Mann also said that the government should conduct a privacy impact assessment before launching the vaccine certificate.
“There is a need to have some appropriate, robust discussion and to have some safeguards in place. Creating situations in which people are required to disclose information to access certain things means you’re going to need some safeguards, such as ensuring it’s proportionate,” Dr Mann said.
“We have to be incredibly careful when dealing with sensitive health information. In states of emergency, I would generally caution against new technologies or new apps being a silver bullet to the pandemic response.”
Last month, Services Australia gave IBM a $19 million contract to upgrade the technology behind the Australian Immunisation Register to better cope with more access, including moving a version of the app to the cloud.