SMART ‘Vax Certification’ for International Travel Clearance
By Eunice Ruth
With the rapid spread of COVID-19, it is important to understand that digitalising several systems can help to minimize the spread and it will also help to continue several processes without any interruptions or delays. Digitisation has made a positive impact in many countries and industries for several years and with all the available technology that exists today, every problem has a solution; a digital solution. At present, in Sri Lanka and in many other countries, the public were forced to live and continue their dayto-day lives with COVID-19.
Also, along with that, public was advised to follow some new habits to protect themselves and others. In this environment, just as wearing masks and carrying sanitiser bottles, and carrying vaccination cards was also made a requirement from 15 September. According to the Government, they said that the general public needs to carry their vaccination cards along with them everywhere, as the responsible officials at random places will check the vaccination cards. Even though it was said as a compulsory thing, in practicality it will be impossible. Vaccination certificates are nothing new; they are the proof documents that record a vaccination event.
Traditionally, from the ancient times, it was used as a paper or a card including the details of the individual’s name, date of vaccination, and vaccine type, and batch number of the vaccine given. Therefore, in order to address this old vaccination card issue, the Information Communication and Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) has launched a system to provide smart COVID-19 vaccination certificates, said the Chief technology Officer of ICTA, Hiranya Samarasekera. The general public, who are making appointments using the COVID-19 vaccination appointments via an online platform, will be given with the smart vaccination certificate after completing both doses of the vaccine.
The Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates is also a mechanism which a person’s COVID-19 -related health data can be digitally documented via an electronic certificate, instead of the old manual method. This certificate can be used in the same way as a paper based vaccination card. That is to provide information to health care providers and the information seekers about the vaccination status of individuals by providing the needed details. With the current COVID-19 situation, it was a mandatory requirement to have the vaccination certificate to enter any particular country.
In this case, these vaccination cards has turned into an international travel pass which will facilitate the tourists, students, employees and others to travel abroad. In the past, the paper based, manual vaccination records have presented many challenges such as the possibility of losing or damaging the card, or even the possibility of fraud. However, with the introduction of the new digital solution, these challenges will be addressed and the risks will be minimized.
Facilitation of safe free movement during pandemic
In this era, even if the public forget to carry their National Identity cards along with them, they will never forget to carry their mobile phones along with them. Around 60-70 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population owns a smart device and still, it would only be a few poor people utilising a basic feature mobile as they don’t have the access or facility to own one. As we all know, the digital solutions will also be a practical and timely measure to address the existing and arising issues. The Smart Vaccine Certificate (SVC) will facilitate safe free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic within the countries.
It will serve as proof that a person was vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID19. The certificate could be used globally. The digital version can be stored on a mobile device and also if needed, the citizens can also request a printed version of the certificate. Both will have a QR code that contains essential information, as well as a digital signature to make sure the certificate is authentic.
However, in Sri Lanka, still only a select percentage of people use the digital process as others are not used to the digital system, so still, they follow the normal process to get their vaccines.
As a result of this, they will only obtain a manually written vaccination card, instead of a smart vaccination certificate. Meanwhile, he further said that the ICTA has also launched another system on 25 August, especially for the people who wish to travel overseas. The people, who have a manual vaccination card, can obtain a smart vaccination certificate by applying via a specific website.
ICTA has introduced this initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to reduce the inconveniences of public by physically visiting the nearest MOH offices, to collect their hard copies of the vaccine certificate. With the introduction of the digital system, public can visit the online portal https://covid-19.health. gov.lk/certificate/ to obtain a soft copy of the vaccine certificate.
Not too late to obtain SVC
By accessing the online portal, the individual need to enter the requested details such as national identity number, passport number, vaccination card details, proof of travel, and requested personal data to obtain the Smart Vaccination Certificate. Upon successfully entering the requested particulars and approval, the user will be given a link to generate a soft copy (PDF version) of the vaccine certificate. In addition, a printout of the certificate can be presented to relevant authorities when needed. “Even, the Government and health officials found that the digital solutions could be much more effective and recognizable internationally. Implementing this system available for all the citizens of Sri Lanka will possibly reduce the inconveniences and it will also help everyone in every way. Meanwhile, at present, providing smart vaccination certificate to everyone is not practical as the Government and the Health Ministry doesn’t have sufficient resources or facilities. However, it is expected to start to issue the SVCs for everyone eventually,” he concluded.