I went to the vaccination centre, and all I got was a jab and a paper card

Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 3 September 2021

My European friends and family have all had Covid shots over the past few months.

They proudly showed me their fancy vaccination certificates (with QR codes) over Zoom as if to rub it in. These codes store their vaccination data, date of birth, and a digital signature – all the important stuff.

I was super-excited last Friday to finally catch up and get a shot, too.

I booked my jab in no time. I only had to refresh the page a few times to get through. It was nothing like booking an MIQ slot.

My vaccination was seamless and efficient, too. It took less than half an hour from entering the vaccination centre to leaving with a slightly sore upper arm.

But there was also disappointment. There was no fancy QR code. Not even an unfancy one.

I got a piece of paper the size of a credit card. My name and the date are handwritten on it. However, there isn’t a batch number. No location. No stamp. And no personal information.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised since they didn’t even ask for my ID, either.

Now I have ‘proof’ of my first vaccination, but it looks about as official as a fairground token.

Before my vaccination, I did not even know it existed, but now I have QR code envy. 

Actually, I have QR code angst. Airlines around the world require vaccination certificates to fly. I’m afraid airlines from more developed countries would laugh at me if I tried to board with that dodgy-looking paper slip.

Maybe I’m being critical. Since we are unlikely to fly internationally for many years, perhaps we don’t need anything fancy? And it is perfectly suitable for domestic use.

In our two-degrees team of five million, you’ll almost always find someone who knows someone who knows you’re vaccinated. What’s the point of recording it?

That’s similar to the story of the New Zealand driving instructor who told his elderly student that she had forgotten to indicate before turning. “But it’s okay. Everybody knows I live here,” she said.

The lack of proper vaccination documents isn’t a flaw in our system. It is a loveable feature of our close-knit society.

QR code certificates are for big, anonymous countries. Kiwis just know each other. We don’t know how lucky we are.