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Australia will begin to issue vaccine passports

Vaccine passports will begin in Australia
Photo: Australia set to issue vaccine passports
The federal government will begin rolling out vaccine certificates designed to allow international travel from October, ahead of borders opening.

Australia has cleared coronavirus vaccine passports for takeoff from next month in preparation for international jetsetting to again take flight.

The decision came as Labor stepped up pressure on the government over its mishandling of vaccine ordering last year.

Travel is not expected to start until vaccination coverage for people aged 16 and over reaches 80 per cent, which is likely months away.

The first international immunisation passports are set to be rolled out in October with all vaccines approved by Australia's medicines regulator recognised for inbound travel.
Immunisation information could automatically be linked to Australian passports for people entering the country.

Those travelling overseas could use a QR code through an international app.

A spokesman for Stuart Robert, the cabinet minister in charge of digital and data policy, said further details would be released soon.

"The Morrison government continues to work towards vaccine assurance standards that will be one element of enabling vaccinated Australians to move and travel more freely," he said on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said home quarantine would be key for restarting international travel with premiers asked to provide timetables about introducing the measure.

A trial in South Australia has involved 50 people using geolocation and facial recognition technology to ensure they are at home for two weeks of isolation.

State governments are also forging ahead with plans to link vaccination status to check-in apps which would allow people to be allowed into venues.

But Labor is calling for a nationally consistent approach, with forgery protections and assurances about data accuracy.

The federal opposition has also renewed its attack over the vaccination program, pointing to documents released under freedom of information which show Pfizer made first contact with the government on June 26 last year.

A high-ranking health bureaucrat was offered a meeting with senior global Pfizer bosses if Health Minister Greg Hunt or departmental leadership was involved.

Pfizer said it could supply millions of doses to the world by the end of 2020 subject to technical success and regulatory approvals before scaling up to hundreds of millions in 2021.

Health Department first assistant secretary Lisa Schofield replied three days later saying she would meet with the company.

On July 6, Pfizer said the government would need to sign a confidential disclosure agreement for senior figures to provide detail about the company's approach.

Ms Schofield replied two days later telling Pfizer it was not usual practice to sign such agreements as officials were legally required to keep discussions secret.

An introductory meeting on July 10 was agreed to instead.

Almost two weeks later Pfizer told the government the UK and US had signed vaccine deals with the company.

The minister's office first met with Pfizer representatives on August 4 and Australia's first 10 million-dose deal was signed in November.

"While other countries were signing Pfizer deals, our government couldn't even be bothered arranging a meeting," Labor health spokesman Mark Butler said.

Mr Hunt's spokeswoman said the email trail showed constant contact with Pfizer shortly after the pandemic began.

"As Pfizer has made clear, no earlier doses were available to Australia."

Australia has fully vaccinated almost 40 per cent of its over-16 population while more than 64 per cent have received a single dose.

Nine more deaths in NSW took the outbreak's state toll to 148 with hospitalisations rising and another 1480 cases detected on Wednesday.

Victoria recorded 221 new cases, while there were 20 new infections in the ACT.

Lockdown in regional Victoria - except Shepparton in the state's north - will end on Friday morning.

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