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SA to Issue Digital Vaccine Passports Next Week: What Will This Mean?

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
Journalist. Reach me at

According to an announcement made by South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla, digital vaccination passes will be issued to all eligible vaccinated South Africans in less than a week.

The country’s Department of Health says that currently, the digital vaccine certificates are “under development.”

According to Mia Malan, editor-in-chief of Bhekisisa Health Journalism Centre, the digital certificates will be issued to vaccinated South Africans in about a week. The certificates can be uploaded onto smartphones and will be printable.

South Africans will receive a certificate if their vaccination details, such as location, number of dose and type of jab match their EVDS record.

According to Phaahla, the digital certificates will be protected from fraud as far as possible and will be in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) requirements for a standardised vaccine certificate for all countries to decrease the possibility of fraud.

This comes as, according to the Health Minister, almost all COVID-19 hospitalisations in SA are among unvaccinated people, with Phaahla adding that to reduce chances of falling very ill or dying from COVID and related complications, people should get inoculated.

Travel Industry Reacts

Although, as Phaahla says, SA doesn’t currently require vaccine passports for travellers coming into the country, the travel industry is expected to react positively to the announcement.

“This much-awaited announcement is fantastic news for the South African travel and tourism industry, as it will help facilitate travel for all vaccinated South Africans and help cut through the red tape and admin when travelling,” says Oz Desai, GM of Corporate Traveller, in a statement.

Desai warns however that while these passes give the holder the government-issued right to travel across borders, there are still restrictions in place based on both your country of departure and destination.

For example, the EU vaccine passport has been issued to over 27 member nations, allowing seamless travel between EU countries. Although this is perfect for member states, what happens when someone from a country outside the EU tries to enter?

“This is where travel experts are earning their stripes,” says Desai.

“Your Travel Consultant should be able to give you the latest information and advice – because as with red lists, border closures and restrictions, the situation around valid, accepted health passes is still fluid.”

Corporate Traveller, a division of the Flight Centre Travel Group, says that the launch of COVID-19 vaccine passports poses a complicated process, which can leave the system open to abuse, misuse and scepticism.

The company says that fair vaccine passports must:

  • Meet the benchmarks for COVID immunity
  • Be internationally standardised
  • Be verifiable
  • Be 100% secure in terms of personal data
  • Be affordable
  • Be portable
  • Meet legal and ethical standards.

“COVID passports are likely to be non-negotiable in a post-Covid world. Exactly how the world goes about it, is still up in the air,” comments Desai.

“Regardless of this, the news that South Africans will soon have access to a digital health certificate is good news all around.”

Edited by Luis Monzon
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