International Students, Get Your IHI Before Vaccination. Here’s Why
It’s the month of August, the Australian COVID-19 vaccine rollout is in its second phase and many international students in Australia are eagerly awaiting the day they can also get the jab.
If you are working in the health and aged care/disability sector and have gotten the vaccine, congratulations and thank you for your service so far!
But for the rest of us who don’t fit into the priority list (aged 40-49, frontline workers, people who have an underlying condition or significant disability amongst other exemptions), the vaccine rollout (specifically Pfizer) is a waiting game.
However, there is good news for international students. The Victorian Department of Health just announced that anyone aged 18-39 is now eligible to get the Astra Zeneca vaccine. This means that now almost all international students are eligible solely by age.
It might take a flick of a wrist to go and register for the vaccine, but there is something you can do before clicking that time slot because it can help streamline our COVID-19 vaccine registration and is beneficial to our record after the jab.
Individual Health Identifier or (IHI) is a unique number used by the government, Service Australia, that identifies individuals for health purposes. Australians with Medicare automatically get an IHI.
To make it easier to understand: while you have a Tax File Number (TFN) to identify you for tax and employment purposes, an IHI identifies you for health purposes. The difference is, an IHI isn’t mandatory whereas you need to have a TFN to be able to work legally.
What’s the benefit for us?
Though not a requirement, having an IHI allows us to do several things:
We can upload our immunisation history, including our COVID-19 vaccination certificate. This is a government-recognised proof of vaccination, should the need to show vaccination status arises.
Secondly, it allows us to create a My Health Record account. This is a centralised record medical history and information. Since temporary migrants including international students do not have Medicare, the information is stored separately and privately with whichever GP or clinic that we go to.
With an IHI, we can create a My Health Record account where we can upload this information and give future medical professionals access (with our consent) should they need it.
Without it, we’d have to ask our previous GP and doctor to manually send our information every time we go to a different practitioner, or keep a hard copy of our records. It cuts the middle relaying process.
How do I get an IHI?
There are two ways of getting an IHI: first, by signing into your myGov account and linking it to the Individual Healthcare Services tab. You’ll need to provide passport details and a valid visa status. Once the date is confirmed, a string line of numbers will be given. Keep it with you and use it whenever you want to use health services.
The second way involves manually filling the IHI (MS003) form, attaching certified copies of your documentation, and either sending it through email, fax, or post with the address all written in the form. Though the application will take longer to complete, Services Australia provides translated forms to help support applicants with multiple languages.