Why Australians could have two vaccine passports

Picture: Adam Mclean
Picture: Adam Mclean

Australians may soon need multiple vaccine passports.

The federal government already plans to rollout vaccine passports for international travel next month, in preparation for nation's borders reopening.

The Prime Minister has described extra freedoms for fully vaccinated Australians as "common sense". But as some states and territories prepare their own domestic passports, allowing access to public venues, and no guarantee of a national system, it's looking likely Australian will need two.

If you're on a border town, it might even be three.

How will NSW's passport work?

By building on an existing framework.

Like in many jurisdictions, people in NSW are already required to check into venues via a QR code. The state government is working on an update to its Service NSW app, which will add a person's vaccination status.

Gladys Berejiklian says, once the state hits 70 per cent vaccination, those who've come forward for both doses will be exempt from lockdowns. They'll also be able to return to a range of settings - the pub, the gym - albeit at a limited capacity.

She concedes private gatherings relied on trust to a large degree, but says the existing QR system means venues are much easier for police. "If you want to go and buy something which is regarded as a non-essential shop, you will put up the QR code. If it is not a green light saying you have been vaccinated, you won't be welcome inside," she said.

The vaccine mandate will apply to workers at the venue, too. NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said workplaces would come up with "some system to check that".


Why won't the ACT follow suit?

Too difficult for too little reward.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has already said the ACT won't be converting the Canberra Check-In app into a vaccine passport.

Mr Barr says the biggest argument for giving people extra freedoms is incentivising hesitant people to come forward. That might be necessary in jurisdictions without a high vaccine hesitancy rate, but Canberrans are already eager to get vaccinated, he says.

He claims the only thing stopping the territory reaching vaccination rates above 90 per cent is availability, and projections show it will take just five days to get from 70 per cent to 80 per cent. "Why would we go through the entire rigmarole of putting in place such a complex set of systems, with fraud risks, with compliance nightmare associated with it, for the sake of five days?" he asked.

What's happening in the other states?

A mixed response.

Victoria will soon trial its vaccine passport system, allowing regional Victorians to return to the pub once at 70 per cent single-dose coverage. Premier Daniel Andrews says venues will receive a tick or a cross indicating a person's status, but insists they will not be able to store the data.

Queensland is still weighing its options, but Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has privacy concerns. South Australian Premier Steven Marshall is in favour, but wants the Commonwealth to coordinate the efforts.


Who else is calling for them?

The idea has support from the business community. NAB this week called for passports at the 80 per cent mark, while Qantas has threatened to bar unvaccinated customers from its international flights.

Vaccine passports are also popular among the public. A survey of 1000 Australians in August found more than 70 per cent in favour, with support highest in COVID-hit NSW and Victoria.

Don't I already have one on Medicare?

Not quite.

Fully vaccinated Australians are already able to access a proof-of-vaccination certificate on their Medicare app. But for now, it's just that.

Will I need two if I live on the border?

Quite possibly.

Albury-Wodonga residents already need Victorian and NSW QR code systems on their phones. And, if no national framework is establish for domestic vaccine passports is established, that's likely to continue.

This story Australians could have multiple vaccine passports first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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