South Africans can now access their Covid-19 vaccination certificate digitally

South Africans can now apply for a Covid-19 digital vaccine certificate through a digital vaccination certificate portal, the department of health said on Friday.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla told a news briefing that the introduction of the portal was a major highlight in the country’s ongoing battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

The launching of the certificate – a joint venture between the health department and the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research – comes a day after the UK announced it was removing South Africa from its Covid-19 travel red list.

“We expect that this certificate will be a tool to enable vaccinated people to access many opportunities. Amongst others, we expect sports and recreation to open up more for vaccinated people and shops to provide discounts,” said Phaahla.

The project manager of the electronic vaccination data system, Milani Wolmarans, said the system had been developed using a phased approach and was currently in phase one. 

“The system will have new enhancements as the development progresses. The design of the vaccination certificate will be enhanced to ensure that it remains up to date with local and international standards,” Wolmarans said.

Each vaccination certificate has an expiry date which means the holder must update it on the digital vaccination certificate portal. Wolmarans stressed that the expiry date did not apply to the vaccine received, but rather the certificate itself.

“You will therefore have to download your updated vaccination certificate for it to remain valid. The department of health will advise on the availability of newer versions of the Covid-19 vaccination certificate as it becomes available” she added.

National vaccination roll-out coordinator Nicholas Crisp said those who received a second jab of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, or perhaps a possible booster jab in the future, needed to update their existing certificate with the  updated information. 

Only people who have received their Covid-19 vaccine in South Africa are eligible to access the vaccination certificate, which requires a valid South African ID, foreign passport number or an asylum/refugee number to download.

The certificates only reflect vaccines that are part of the national vaccine programme, said Crisp. This means a person who has received one dose in the country, and a second one elsewhere, can only get a South African certificate reflecting the jab received in the country.

A separate vaccine certificate to prove a person is fully vaccinated must be issued by the country the drug was administered in. 

In addition to providing an identity number, the vaccination code issued after being vaccinated is also required for a certificate.

Wolmarans said starting from Friday until Monday, vaccination codes would  be re-sent via SMS for those that no longer had them. Wolmarans said vaccination certificates could be downloaded multiple times, but there was a limit of two or three times a day.

Possible network issues due to high traffic volumes or a network error might occur, she noted.

Phaahla encouraged people experiencing challenges on the vaccination certificate portal to contact the Covid-19 hotline: 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp support line: 0600 123 456. 

A step-by-step toolkit to guide you through downloading your digital vaccine certificate has been compiled and can be viewed here.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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