COVID-19 vaccine certificates are ready - here are five things you need to know

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has announced that vaccine certificates are ready to download in time for the summer break. 

My Vaccine Pass is an official record of someone's COVID-19 vaccination status and will allow access to places that require proof of immunisation under the new COVID-19 Protection Framework.

The pass will be able to be downloaded later on Wednesday morning. Hipkins' office did not provide a specific time. He told The AM Show the website is "already struggling to cope". 

The new COVID Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system announced three weeks ago, was set to come into effect for Auckland once 90 percent of the eligible population was fully vaccinated. 

For the rest of the country, each district health board (DHB) would have to reach 90 percent. However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she strongly supports an early move into the new framework, after she was advised it "provides greater protection" than the alert levels. 

Under the traffic light system, freedoms will be determined by vaccine certificates. For example, when Auckland enters the 'red' light, hospitality venues can open with up to 100 fully vaccinated people, but businesses that choose not to use certificates must remain contactless. 

With vaccine certificates ready to go, the new COVID Protection Framework can come into effect, once Cabinet decides to implement it. 

Here are five things to know.

1. Where can you download it?

My Vaccine Pass will be issued by the Ministry of Health. You can log onto My COVID Record to make a request for the free pass or call 0800 222 478.

My Vaccine Pass will include your name, date of birth and a QR code. The pass can be saved on your digital device or printed as a physical copy.  

If you have a temporary medical exemption, you can call 0800 222 478 to request a My Vaccine Pass. You may be asked a few things to confirm your identity, such as your name and date of birth. You won't need your National Health Index (NHI) number. 

"People can log in from later this morning, but we're asking for patience and for people to wait for a couple of days to ease any demand on the IT system and call centre staff," Hipkins said on Wednesday. 

"It is your official proof of vaccination and a ticket to enjoy the extra freedoms that will come with the COVID-19 Protection Framework. To get one, people will need to be fully vaccinated or be one of the very small number of Kiwis who have received a medical exemption."

2. Where can you use it?

Under the traffic light framework, you'll need a vaccine certificate to attend concerts and music festivals, bars and restaurants, gyms and sports events, and more. 

You do not have to show proof of your vaccination status to access supermarkets, pharmacies, all health and disability services, food banks or petrol stations. 

Proof of vaccination is also not required in education settings, on all public transport other than air travel, or accessing housing support services under state sector agencies. 

And for children under the age of 12, there is no requirement to show proof of vaccination.  

Hipkins said proof of a booster shot is not required "at this stage" to be able to get a vaccine certificate. Booster shots will be available from November 26 for those who had their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine six months ago.  

3. How long is it valid for?

Vaccine certificates are valid for six months. 

The reason for this is that booster shots "may be required to ensure ongoing protection against COVID-19 and because medical exemptions are only valid for six months", Hipkins said. 

If vaccination passes are still required after a pass has expired, you will need to request another one to prove your vaccinations are current.

It's anticipated that the need for proof of a vaccine certification when travelling internationally will be in place for years to come. 

4. Can you use it to travel internationally?

A separate international vaccine certificate can be requested now through My Covid Record. It's recommended you request a certificate a week or so before the date you intend to travel overseas. 

You will receive a separate QR code for your international vaccine certificate. These certificates will be recognised by international jurisdictions and are for travel purposes only. 

Remember, international arrivals are still required to spend seven days in a state-run managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility, and then self-isolate at home, so things aren't back to normal. 

The international certificates have an expiry date of one year. 

The Government recommends checking the requirements of the country you're travelling to and find out what proof of vaccination, if any, is needed. 

International vaccine certificates from New Zealand are recognised as part of the EU Digital Covid Certificate. These certificates are being widely recognised by countries outside of Europe, including New Zealand, Australia and the United States. 

It means New Zealand certificates may be used as proof of vaccine when entering 49 countries, with more countries expected to come.

5. Which vaccines are recognised?

  • Pfizer/BioNTech 
  • Janssen (Johnson and Johnson) 
  • AstraZeneca (Oxford) 
  • AstraZeneca/Covishield (Serum Institute of India)  
  • Moderna 
  • Sinopharm  
  • Sinovac (CoronaVac) 
  • Covaxin (Bharat Biotech) 

"A process has been put in place for people who have had their COVID-19 vaccinations overseas to have these recognised here and submit an application for My Vaccine Pass," Hipkins said. 

"The application process for this may take up to 14 days as details will initially be manually entered into the COVID-19 Immunisation Register. People are advised to prepare all their vaccine evidence from overseas and get their applications in as soon as possible from tomorrow."