An increasing number of countries are using vaccine passports not only at their borders but also to restrict who can participate in social and cultural activities, and in some cases even employment.
Most of the countries that have begun implementing the passes widely have relatively high vaccination rates of at least 50 percent.
While in most cases it’s too early to tell whether the schemes are working, they provide useful insight for where Australia might be headed towards.
Israel is among the most successful vaccination programs in the world.
More than 60 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated and another 5 percent or so have had at least one shot.
Israel first introduced a temporary system called the “green pass” earlier this year, which was a QR code that people showed using an app or printed out to prove their vaccination status.
It’s become the template for most other countries’ systems as well.
The green pass allowed access to places like gyms, event venues, hotels, theatres, restaurants and bars and was available to people who had been vaccinated or who had recovered from a coronavirus infection.
People who tested negative for the virus could also get a temporary pass valid for 72 hours.
The green pass program was discontinued in June as restrictions were lifted, but a recent surge in cases driven by the Delta variant has prompted the government to bring it back from the end of July.
The European Union implemented a vaccine passport system in July that allows anyone who is fully vaccinated with any of five Western-made vaccines to travel freely within the bloc.
Individual countries are also bringing in domestic measures that give greater freedom to vaccinated people.
France this month introduced a “health pass” required for entry to cinemas, museums, sports venues, events or places catering to more than 50 people. It’s expected to be extended to restaurants, cafes and shopping centres in August.
In the week after the July 12 announcement, 3.7 million French citizens signed up for vaccination, according to the Doctolib health website.
However, the move sparked protests around the country with tens of thousands taking to the streets.
Italy followed in France’s footsteps this week, announcing that proof of vaccination or immunity would shortly be mandatory for activities including indoor dining and entering places such as gyms, pools, museums and cinemas.
Regional governors in Italy said there was actually a marked pick-up in bookings following the announcement.
Greece made a vaccination certificate mandatory for anyone to be allowed into indoor restaurants and bars from last week.
Hungary has made vaccinations mandatory for healthcare workers and Malta this month became the first country in the European Union to ban any visitor over the age of 12 from entering unless fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Germany has not yet implemented any measures forcing people to get vaccinated but the government has warned restrictions for unvaccinated people may be necessary if COVID-19 infection numbers reach new heights in the coming months.
England announced in late July that fully vaccinated travellers from the US and Europe — apart from France — would no longer need to quarantine upon arrival starting August 2.
Travellers must provide proof of vaccination, such as the European Union’s vaccine passport, the US CDC card or US state-level verification.
British citizens arriving from amber list countries were already able to get a “COVID pass” that allowed them to skip quarantine if they were fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also suggested earlier this month that from the end of September English nightclubs and other venues with large crowds would require patrons to present proof of full vaccination before entry on the NHS Covid Pass app.
However, Mr Johnson said the government was not planning similar requirements for pubs.
The US has yet to bring in any national form of vaccine passport, however, President Joe Biden said last week that federal workers will need to be vaccinated or face testing, social distancing, mask requirements and limits on travel.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs, the state of California and New York City have made vaccines mandatory for employees.
Some hospitals, nursing homes, colleges and universities among other places have also made it compulsory for its workers to get vaccinated.
Google and Facebook also said they would require employees to be vaccinated.
President Vladimir Putin has not implemented any national measures to mandate vaccinations in Russia, but some regions have taken steps.
For example, unvaccinated people won’t be able to stay at any resorts in Sochi, a popular summer destination, from next month.
However, Moscow this week had to drop its ban on people entering cafes, restaurants and bars without a health pass after owners complained it was killing business.
Some people had also been getting around the ban by buying counterfeit vaccine certificates or paying to have their name added to the national vaccine register.
Since relatively early in the pandemic, China has had a “health code” system accessible within WeChat that can store vaccine information.
It is these apps, rather than the digital passport, that have been used to restrict domestic travel if people have been in outbreak areas.
However, China also started rolling out a digital vaccine passport in March that appeared to be primarily for international travel.
What about Australia?
An example of a COVID-19 digital certificate accessible on the Express Plus Medicare app.
Vaccines have already become a must in a few areas in Australia.
By mid-September vaccination will be mandatory for residential aged care workers and a trial of home quarantine for vaccinated Australians arriving back home from overseas is being undertaken in South Australia.
The federal government’s COVID-19 digital certificate already shows the inoculations you have had to protect against the virus, as recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register.
It is available on smartphones on the Express Plus Medicare app.
Federal Tourism Minister Dan Tehan last month said the plan was to eventually expand the home quarantine program to people who had been vaccinated overseas using a vaccine passport system.
Mr. Tehan has also said he would like to see a vaccine passport system in Australia for domestic travel.