The Australian Passport Office has developed a simple QR code reader which will allow Home Affairs border officials and hospitality venue staff to verify the authenticity of digital vaccine certificates.
With vaccine status now a criterion for access to venues in NSW and for employment eligibility in some industries, there have been widespread concerns about how the bona fides of Australia’s digital vaccine certificates will be checked.
Digital vaccine records have been available in Australia since June 2021, containing personal information (such as name and date of birth) and vaccine status (vaccine manufacturer and date received). Unlike many vaccine records issued overseas, they do not yet include readable QR codes so there have been concerns about digital fakes and forgeries.
The National Cabinet confirmed on 1 October that the new format would be available “both digitally and in printable form, through a simple process in myGov”.
The new QR reader will allow anyone who has downloaded it to their phone to verify the authenticity of digital vaccine certificates.
The “Visible Digital Seal for Non-Constrained Environments” VDS-NC Checker”app has been developed in conjunction with Brisbane app developer Speedwell, and is available now for anyone to download from Android and Apple stores.
The VDS-NC Checker uses the same digital technology as an ePassport chip but in QR format.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Passport Office has more than 15 years of experience with ePassport technology. The technology now allows incoming Australian citizens to ‘tap’ a reader to register their biographical information when coming through Home Affairs ‘smart gates’ at Australia’s international airports.
The new reader meets International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, conforms to World Health Organization guidelines for digital vaccination certificates, is compatible with digital wallets and with COVID-19 travel apps, such as the IATA TravelPass.
The first version of the app will only authenticate vaccination certificates issued by Australian officials. Future updates will allow border officials to verify certificates presented by travellers arriving from other countries.
It is important to note that people may still need to present personal identification (passport, driver licence) to match information contained in a digital vaccine certificate.
Australia’s public COVID-19 vaccination program officially began on Monday 22 February 2021; one month after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved the Pfizer vaccine for ‘provisional’ use.
When people receive their vaccines, confirmation is sent to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) and automatically uploaded to My Health Record, where a record is available for individuals (and their doctors) to view through a Medicare online account (via MyGov), or the Express Plus Medicare mobile app - which can convert the record into a digital vaccine certificate.