How vaccine passports could affect Aussie travellers

 

As millions of people around the world receive their COVID-19 vaccinations, more countries are introducing "vaccine passports", and there is speculation that they may be made universal.

Melbourne entrepreneur Michael Maher is the CEO and co-founder of e-wallet and electronic passport platform OnePassport, an immunisation register that can help aged care organisations track individuals'' vaccine and virus tests results.

Mr Maher is currently in talks with Qantas as well as the NSW and Queensland governments about the use of his app for vaccine passports.

He has also submitted ministerial briefs to Trade Minister Dan Tehan and Education Minister Alan Tudge.

Here he explains how his vaccine passport would work and what it could mean for Australian travellers.

 

HOW DOES ONEPASSPORT WORK?

OnePassport is a smartphone app that allows individuals to collect all of their career-related

information; have the items that require it to be independently verified, and then be able to share that record with multiple third parties concurrently. This information typically includes

qualifications, employment history, right to work information, and ongoing professional

development requirements.

 

 

Returning passengers from Brisbane are screened at the arrivals gate in the Qantas Terminal at Sydney airport. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
Returning passengers from Brisbane are screened at the arrivals gate in the Qantas Terminal at Sydney airport. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

Frequently, this list now includes immunisation information. Once the information is in their

OnePassport app, individuals can choose to share this information with third parties. This includes employers, regulatory bodies, training organisations, and industry bodies. They can share the information as both part of job applications as well as an indefinite connection so that when the individual updates any item, such as a change in an email address, a new police check or visa, the organisations that I have chosen to see that data get updated automatically and in real-time. No more having to go in and manually update HR records.

If an individual leaves an employer or other organisation, they have the ability to cancel the

connection. The organisation will keep the information they have received until now, same as an old paper-based HR record, but they will not receive any new information. The individual is in control of their information.

 

 

 

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

There are actually two apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play with a third app being

released in a few weeks.

The first app is OnePassport Work, which is the full system and allows an individual to upload all of the information listed above. The second app is OnePassport Travel, which allows individuals and families to upload their ID, flight details and COVID vaccination or test result information so that they can fly internationally.

The third app that is coming soon is OnePassport Immunise, which is a digital immunisation

register for individuals families to track all of their vaccinations and test results. This means they can have them on hand to produce whenever they need to such as at child care centres,

sporting games, or any other setting.

 

 

The destination board at the international terminal at Melbourne Airport showing a flight to Auckland, one of the few current flights out. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw
The destination board at the international terminal at Melbourne Airport showing a flight to Auckland, one of the few current flights out. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

WHAT ARE YOUR DEALINGS WITH QANTAS?

OnePassport is in discussions with a few airlines including Qantas. The discussions are focused on the credentialing of flight crews, ground crews and LAME (mechanics). Similar to other OnePassport users, these workers must meet the requirements of multiple regulatory

environments on top of those imposed by COVID.

 

ONEPASSPORT'S IMMUNISATION REGISTER

For over 50 years the World Health Organisation has issued the International Certificates of

Vaccination booklet - known as the yellow book. If you have one of these books, up until 12

months ago a doctor would write by hand in it when you received either a vaccination or

pathology test.

As OnePassport works in health, two years ago we designed a digital immunisation register in consultation with infection control consultants. In today's age, it seemed that a digital upgrade was well and truly due for the yellow book.

Planes on the tarmac at Sydney Airport. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles
Planes on the tarmac at Sydney Airport. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles

HOW DO WE VERIFY IMMUNISATIONS?

It is much easier to verify a vaccination than a test result. The individual is actually in the room with the doctor when they are injected and can scan the batch details and the doctors ID and carry "verified vaccination" information with them.

On the other hand, verifying a test result is much harder as you will typically never meet the

professional who does the test. This creates a challenge for verified test results.

When COVID started, test results were distributed via SMS. Then people started forging the

SMS, so for test results with serious implications such as flying internationally, the process was changed. Instead the individual had to visit a doctor who collected the sample and sent it away for testing. The doctor received the results, and after verifying that it was the same individual sitting in front of them, wrote a letter for them to carry. Now it is pretty simple to buy one of those letters online and easily edit them.

That is why the Holy Grail of COVID tests at this time is an end to end, chain of custody system for verified test results. Unfortunately, the health sector is full of older technology in need of updating. So it is not possible, let alone easy, for many providers to be able to connect their systems using APIs and be able to share verified test results.

WHAT IS AN IMMUNISATION PASSPORT?

An immunisation passport is a digital identifier for international travel that holds three key pieces of information about a person: their ID, their flight details and their COVID vaccination or test result information.

One of the challenges at this stage is that there is no global standard beyond this general

description. The COVID Credentialing Initiative (CCI) under the Linux Foundation for Public

Health out of New York includes multiple organisations from around the world working on

common standards and definitions in this space. The group includes universities such as MIT,

Miami University and Kent University as well as companies such as IBM and OnePassport.

 

HOW WILL TRAVELLERS BENEFIT AND WHAT WILL THEY NEED TO DO?

With regards to COVID response, Australia is in a very good position compared to much of the world. In order for Australians to travel outside of Australia, travellers will require some version of an immunisation passport. Without it, it is unlikely that an individual will be allowed to travel internationally.

At this stage, neither the Australian government, Qantas or other airlines have decreed any

single system as their desired immunisation passport. Based on our research and the

discussions under the CCI, similar to the fact there will never only be a single vaccine around

the world, we believe that there will never be a single immunisation passport. Depending on

each individual's needs, native language, citizenship, etc will dictate that governments and

airlines accept multiple versions of the immunisation passport. It is much more likely that

governments will set a standard for immunisation passports and all who reach that standard will be accepted.

We are currently lobbying our government departments for the opportunity to help develop these standards for Australia and to better understand their current position or work undertaken on this topic. Right now it appears there is little cohesion among our politicians around this

subject if they have an opinion at all. We would like to see Australia become a leader in this

area and develop standards for the rest of the world, especially now we have opened the first

'travel bubble' between ourselves and New Zealand.

Australians will soon be travelling again with the trans-Tasman bubble. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper
Australians will soon be travelling again with the trans-Tasman bubble. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

HOW WILL IT DIFFER FROM IATA?

The various immunisation passports, including IATA's Travel Pass and CommonPass, will be

very similar. They will verify a person's ID, their travel information and their COVID vaccination or test result information. The challenge is the ability to access verified test results because healthcare technology is antiquated and does not share well.

The key difference between any of those options and OnePassport is that they are a one-trick

pony. Their sole purpose is to provide evidence of COVID vaccination or test results in order for a person to cross an international border. On the other hand, OnePassport is a mobile

credential that allows an individual to provide evidence of multiple regulatory requirements

including COVID vaccination or test results.

 

Originally published as How vaccine passports could affect Aussie travellers


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