Australians could be carrying a internationally-recognised 'vaccination passport' on their smartphones within months, with the potential to unlock quarantine-free travel to Covid-safe countries.
"We already have vaccine certificates (in Australia)," Prime Minister Scott Morrison remarked at a press conference yesterday, "and this month we expect them to be in a form that can be dropped into Apple Wallets, things of that nature."
"Later in the year, about October we estimate, we will have a vaccination certificate that will be able to be... internationally recognised to facilitate when people are moving out of the country and into the country, being able to recognise others' certificates."
"That is something that has been a common feature of the conversations I have been having with other leaders."
As reported earlier this month, the Australian government has set its sights on a 'digital health' smartphone app to help restart international travel by storing digital vaccination certificates along with the results of COVID-19 tests.
According to a recent Request for Tender issued by the Australian Digital Health Agency, the app is intended to be available for both Apple iPhone and Google Android devices before December 2021.
It would connect to the government's My Health Record system to provide real-time access to not only COVID-19 vaccination and test data but other immunisations such as against yellow fever, alerts on allergies, and organ donation status.
In addition, a critical requirement of the "digital health mobile channel" project is that it can tap into external systems, which could open the path for interaction with national health databases of other countries.
This would not only allow for reciprocal recognition of vaccination certificates issued overseas, as well as ensure that travellers meet a country's conditions of entry such as pre-departure COVID tests.
Traffic light approach
According to Travel Daily, which first reported the tender, "the documents specify that the mobile application will display an animated tick (e.g. red, amber, green) to indicate the user's status, as well as 'multiple authenticity and anti-fraud measures'."
The Australian government has previously been in discussion with the International Air Transport Association on potentially adopting its Travel Pass digital health app and platform, which has already been embraced by Singapore and dozens of airlines.
Under the government's four-stage "pathway out of COVID-19", returning vaccinated travellers could initially swap 14-day hotel quarantine for seven days of home isolation, while 2022 would see the extension of quarantine-free travel bubbles along with lifting "all restrictions on outbound travel for vaccinated persons."
The ADHA's tender follows its awarding this week of a contract to Deloitte Consulting to develop "the Health Information Gateway, a pivotal piece of national digital health enabling technology that provides a secure and scalable platform for exchanging and accessing health information, including priority areas such as vaccinations and aged care data."
The gateway is described as the first step in "the modernisation of the national digital health infrastructure."
"A connected healthcare system is at the heart of the National Digital Health Strategy, and while our national digital health infrastructure has already delivered significant benefits for Australians, it is now time to modernise and unlock the potential that new technologies offer," says Australian Digital Health Agency CEO Amanda Cattermole.