"With the e-vaccination pass Austria´s IT experts are making an
important innovative contribution to the well-being of Austria."
(Alfred Harl, chairman of the UBIT, Austrian Chamber of Commerce)
Austria's IT service providers have made an immense contribution to implementing digital technologies that facilitate seamless, smooth, and quick sharing of patient information between patients, insurance companies, and health service providers. The “electronic vaccination pass” (“e-vaccination pass” or “E-Impfpass”) is a specialised service created to record patient data regarding vaccination. (read more)
The country's coronavirus vaccination arrangement has coincided with efforts to digitize vaccination cards. It is a replacement of the paper-based certificates which have been used to track vaccination data for decades. E-vaccination certificates are designed to provide access to patient vaccination data centrally.
Understanding the digital vaccine pass
Austria's E-Impfpass is a digitised method for recording and sharing vaccination data to allow health providers to track the vaccination process. The digital document stores essential information, such as the type of vaccines administered to different people or the number of doses already taken. The brains behind the digital vaccine's development and implementation are Austria's ELGA (Elektronische Gesundheitsakte) organisation. (read more)
Although the E-Impfpass is fully operational, there are plans to integrate the electronic data system with an application eventually. The app will send SMS reminders to individuals reminding them to get vaccinated or alert them to receive the second dose. However, the digital vaccine pass is not entirely new since it is a digitalised version of the yellow paper pass which millions of Austrians are accustomed to.
What is the vaccination data used for?
The electronic pass is a platform that tracks the administration of vaccines e.g. coronavirus. It records the number of individuals who have already been immunised against the disease. Currently, there are no clear indications that the vaccination information in the e-vaccination pass will be used to provide certain rights or privileges for specific people. For example, there is no indication that organisations will use the pass to permit individuals to carry out particular tasks or gain entry to events. However, the Austrian government has not ruled out the possibility.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) is looking at prospects of deploying e-vaccination certificates like the ones it's developing with Estonia. The United Nations health agency and Estonia started a digital vaccine certificate (a smart yellow card) for interoperable healthcare data tracking to boost vaccinations.
Several other European countries are experiencing the growing reality of vaccinations. Britain became the first western country to start inoculating its citizens with Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, German firm BioNTech is racing to ramp up COVID-19 jab production in Europe, to fill the gap left by the lack of other approved vaccines.
Worldwide, stakeholders are looking closely into the use of technology in the pandemic response. In particular, the nations are exploring capabilities offered by an e-vaccination certificate system.
Various companies and technology groups are developing apps and systems for individuals to upload their COVID-19 tests and vaccinations details, creating digital credentials that citizens could present to enter events, venues, stadiums, and airports.
The Austrian government may use the digital vaccine pass to track and update the vaccination rollout procedures. For instance, the information can assist the government in assessing and evaluating the daily coronavirus vaccination rate. The data is valuable since it can determine the impact of vaccination efforts to contain the spread of the virus in specific areas.
Legal basis for creating the e-vaccination certificate
The Health Telematics Act was amended in 2020 to provide a legal basis for processing vaccination data. The Health Telematics Act regulates the electronic transfer and sharing of personal health information. The amendment was done to create a legal basis for recording and storing electronic vaccination data. Like the paper-based vaccination pass, every Austrian receives the digital vaccine pass as a vital healthcare instrument.
Why is the digital vaccination pass important?
The electronic vaccination pass was implemented to primarily enable a digitised vaccination register. It stores the vaccination data in a centralised vaccination register, allowing standardised and complete documentation of vaccination procedures. That means that Austrian citizens will no longer require to use the manual paper vaccination pass, which can easily get lost or expose sensitive medical information to unauthorized parties.
Individuals can also use the vaccination pass to view their vaccination records. The information is accessible via the ELGA portal opened through this link. Implementing the e-vaccination pass to create a vaccination register permits Austrian health authorities to ensure accurate epidemiological evaluations, such as ascertaining reliable vaccination rates.
How it is Done? To carry out the centralized storage of vaccination data across the country, GPs and medical staff are required to install software or the ELGA portal which will give them access to the consolidated data. Once in, they can add vaccination data on behalf of all the recipients. It is important to note here that this is being done at all vaccination centers and across nursing homes and hospitals via specialized tablet computers that were delivered to these locations by the government. This ensures a simultaneous entry of vaccination data as they are carried out.
Besides, there are plans to link the digital vaccination pass with the national Austrian vaccination plan. The vaccination plan is updated regularly with the most recent scientific findings. Integrating the digital vaccination pass with the national vaccination plan enables the possibility of personalised vaccination recommendations. It is an immense advantage to patients since they can access more reliable health services, while vaccination agencies can access more information.
Lastly, the e-vaccination pass provides a practical approach to documenting vaccinations. The pass offers different access options for healthcare professionals. For example, provincial medical departments in Styria and Vienna use a fully integrated software to document vaccination records. Resident doctors can use their e-card connections to record vaccinations. For vaccinating doctors with an e-card connection, they can record vaccination data using mobile devices.
The electronic vaccination pass is essential for all Austrian citizens. It is an automatic service that protects individuals from forgetting first and second doses since it provides convenience and accessibility to vaccination data. It simplifies managing personal health information among patients, healthcare providers, and health insurance firms. The digital vaccination pass further allows relevant authorities to track vaccinations. Through the vaccination register, it is possible to determine how many people have received the vaccine and the vaccination impacts on containing the virus's spread.
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