Australians redirected to My Health Record for vaccine certificates despite opting out

Australians seeking a vaccine certificate have been redirected to My Health Record, despite opting-out of the scheme. Picture: Sylvia Liber
Australians seeking a vaccine certificate have been redirected to My Health Record, despite opting-out of the scheme. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Australians looking to access their Covid vaccine certificate are being directed to My Health Record, even if they have opted out of the scheme.

Fully vaccinated Australians have been able to receive a digital vaccination certificate to their phone for the past week, via Medicare's Express Plus app or myGov.

To access the certificate via myGov, users must ensure their account is linked to their Medicare profile.

But people whose myGov account and Medicare profiles aren't linked have been directed to the My Health Record website, even if they have opted-out of the contentious service, via a link which promises to "Get proof of your vaccinations".

Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen insisted there was no error in the system, saying My Health Record was just one way to access a vaccine certificate.

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"People may see a link to My Health Record in myGov, even if they have opted out of My Health Record. It does not mean that they have to access proof of vaccination through My Health Record," he told The Canberra Times.

"When people sign in to myGov they may see a quick link that directs to either Medicare, My Health Record or Individual Healthcare Identifier.

"The service they're directed to depends on which services they have linked to their myGov account. Medicare is the default if more than one of these services is linked."

There were over 11 million Medicare online accounts linked to a myGov account as of early August.

Australians who cannot access their vaccination certificates online can have their immunisation history printed and mailed to them. They can also receive a hardcopy via the Australian Immunisation Register.

It comes months after the Health Department was forced to amend the My Health Record website, after users were reminded to get their second AstraZeneca dose just four weeks after their first.

The link shown on the myGov website. Picture: Supplied

The link shown on the myGov website. Picture: Supplied

Although the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation advised AstraZeneca doses can be spaced a month apart, a 12-week gap was recommended for maximum protection.

A department spokesperson confirmed the website's default had been changed to a 12-week reminder.

The My Health Record system was opt-in between its 2012 inception and January 2019, when records were created for anyone who did not actively opt-out.

The Australian Digital Health Agency, tasked with running My Health Record, said the scheme boasted a participation rate of around 90 per cent. More than 21m records contained data as of June, including 390,000 in the ACT.

But by February 2019, over 2.5m Australians had opted out of the database, which has raised privacy and security concerns.

The ADHA insisted My Health Record included "multi-layered and strong safeguards" to protect information, including firewalls, encryption, and authentication mechanisms.

But healthcare providers can be granted access to data without explicit consent "for the purpose of lessening a serious threat to your health, life or safety".

And speaking before the system became opt-out, Health Department officials conceded pharmaceutical companies could apply for information held on the database, provided it was for the purpose of health research.

The Australian National Audit Office report in 2019 described My Health Record's implementation as "largely effective", finding the scheme had "robust controls" in place to combat cyber threats.

But it found the system could not guarantee requests for emergency access to data were legitimate, calling for an improvement in its oversight processes.

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This story People linked to My Health Record for vaccine certificates despite opting out first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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