The Federal Government has revealed further details of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, confirming Australians will be able to access proof through their mobile phones that they have received the jab.
Priority groups will start to receive the Pfizer vaccine from later this month, while the AstraZeneca jab is expected to be approved within weeks.
Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said anyone who received a coronavirus vaccine would have it recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register.
The record will then be made available on the MyGov website or the Express Plus Medicare app, where a person’s total immunisation history is listed, or a paper version can be printed out.
“Importantly for Australians, the certificate will be robust, it will be anchored to them so they will know it’s their certificate and it will be widely accepted,” he said.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese argued the Government had a poor track record when it came to delivering COVID-19 support services online.
“We know that they didn’t get the [COVIDSafe] tracing app right,” he said.
“So they need to, as the rollout of the vaccine occurs, make sure that they absolutely get it right because our economy, as well as our health, depends on it.”
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Mr Robert said it was up to the states and territories to decide whether they would impose rules such as requiring people to have proof of a COVID-19 vaccine before visiting or working in an aged care facility.
“We’d be expecting the states and territories to be issuing public health orders if they [saw] fit, so I’ll leave that to the states and territories,” he said.
“What’s important that the Federal Government does is provide a record of vaccination to Australians, should the need be there for Australians to use it.
“Australians need to have that record depending on state public health orders, but especially when travelling and when borders open up again.”
Mr Robert said the Government was still working with other countries on how the vaccination certificate would work for international travel, but it was “highly likely” people coming to Australia would need a vaccination certificate or a period in quarantine.
Low vaccine uptake ‘worst-case scenario’, regulator warns
The Government hopes to be able to offer all Australians a COVID-19 vaccination by the end of October and it is spending millions of dollars trying to convince people to get one.
The head of the medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), said the “worst-case scenario” was that there was a low uptake.
“Transparency’s absolutely critical,” John Skerritt told Sky News.
“And so once the vaccine starts going into people’s arms, we’re going to be putting up every week a warts-and-all description of what safety events have happened, what adverse events have happened in Australia and overseas.
“Now, some people have said, ‘Well that’s a bit risky because people will jump on one person who may have acquired a nervous system condition out of 20 million vaccinated in the US,’ and jump on it.
“But the alternative of not being transparent, I think, is a lot worse.”
Professor Skerritt also cautioned against the spread of misinformation on social media, revealing the TGA had been targeted online after declaring the Pfizer vaccine posed “no specific risk” to elderly patients.
“We’ve had, sadly, several dozen quite venomous complaints on social media accusing us of supporting genocide,” he said.
“So you’ll always have extreme views on social media and I think, as for any view on social media, it’s important for people to do their own thinking and to work out where it comes from.”
Professor Skerritt said doctors would carefully consider whether to vaccinate people who were very old or frail.
“We are saying to doctors, with all these vaccines – and it’s the same with any vaccine, not just the COVID ones – think hard,” he said.
“If someone is only a week or two away or extremely frail, look at everyone on a case by case basis.”
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