Life Tech The government’s vaccine passport scanner appeared on the App Store. Here’s what we know

The government’s vaccine passport scanner appeared on the App Store. Here’s what we know

vaccine Australia's VDS-NC Checker app will scan vaccine passports.
The Australian government has released an app for border officials to check international vaccine passports. Photo: TND
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A QR code scanner for international vaccine passports has appeared on Apple’s App Store – offering new insights into how overseas travel will work from October onwards.

Designed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the VDS-NC Checker appeared on the App Store this week and has already climbed to ninth in the rankings for most downloaded iPhone Travel apps.

Its rapid rise through the rankings speaks to the desire of Australians to get back overseas.

But the app is actually designed for border officials and not for travellers, who will have to wait a few more weeks before getting their hands on their own vaccine passports.

“DFAT has sent sample copies of an international proof of vaccination record to border and health authorities around the world for trial so we can all prepare for the safe reopening once vaccination rates hit the required targets,” a department spokesperson told The New Daily.

Here’s what we know so far.

What will the vaccine passports look like?

The QR code we see as an international ‘vaccine passport’ is formally known as a ‘Visible Digital Seal for Non-Constrained Environments’, or VDS-NC for short. It could be digital or paper.

“The proof of vaccination record will have a highly secure QR code that uses ePassport technology, as specified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation,” a DFAT spokesperson told TND.

ePassports already allow Australians and certain other nationalities to go through automated immigration processes at many airports.

“But not all countries issue ePassports, have such readers, or have had the opportunity to modify their readers to consume health data as well as ePassports,” the Australian app’s description reads.

That’s where this technology comes in.

What will the Australian government’s scanner do?

The Australian government’s VDS-NC Checker app scans QR codes to make sure they are genuine vaccine passports issued by governments, and to confirm they haven’t been tampered with.

Australia's VDS-NC Checker app will scan vaccine passports.
The VDS-NC Checker app will scan vaccine passports and display a traveller’s information. Photo: Supplied

“If the QR code is authentic, the app displays the most important information from the certificate, including the holder’s biodata and COVID-19 immunisations,” the app’s description reads.

Border officials can then check that these details match the traveller’s.

If a vaccine passport turns out to be forged, the app will show that.

So far, the app only works with Australian-issued vaccine passports, or VDS-NCs.

The app will soon be updated to scan vaccine passports from overseas, according to its description on the App Store.

Where will the app be used?

The app’s description implies that it will be used at airports and for ship arrivals.

If vaccination certificates can be integrated into existing ePassports, border staff might only need to use the VDS-NC Checker app for people who don’t have these documents.

However, the app can also be used in situations outside of travel.

“Moreover, a need to authenticate VDS-NC certificates will not be limited to borders – health departments and other entities will also wish to process them,” the app’s description reads.

Several other states are already working on their own solutions to check people’s immunisation status.

Trials for the NSW app will begin in early October.