The Speaker
Wednesday, 29 May 2024 – 22:49

What are vaccine passports and how could they work?

Lots of questions have been raised recently about coronavirus vaccine passports, as the UK Government and other governments around the world consider whether they may have a use for life after lockdown.

Here’s a look at what vaccine passports are, what they might be used for and why they have been viewed by some people as controversial…


What are vaccine passports?

In short, vaccine passports would provide a record of whether people have received a vaccination against COVID-19.

Currently, anyone who receives a Coronavirus vaccination receives a card stating which vaccine they received, and the details are also uploaded to the medical records. An extension of this could be vaccine passports – a physical or virtual proof that the holder has been vaccinated against the virus.


What is the point of vaccine passports?

Vaccine passports could have a variety of uses, but mainly, it is considered that people who are vaccinated against the virus have a significant level of protection against it. We could see a situation in which people are allowed into venues, on international holidays etc, provided they have had a coronavirus vaccination. This though is controversial on several levels…


Why are vaccine passports controversial?

There are lots of things to consider on the topic of vaccine passports. Here are just a few points on why vaccine passports may be controversial;

  • Taking the vaccine is not compulsory – some people may be unable to take the vaccine for medical reasons or may refuse an offer of a vaccination on religious or other grounds. If not well thought through, vaccine passports may see people left behind that have legitimate reasons for not taking a vaccine.
  • It may not be fair to implement a vaccine passport scheme if not everyone has been offered the vaccine.
  • If a digital solution is used for vaccine passports, like the NHS COVID-19 app, it could leave people excluded that cannot afford or do not know how to use the latest smartphones.
  • Vaccine passports are seen by many as a continued restriction on peoples lives, like lockdown rules, and believe there should be greater freedom now that case rates are lower.


Could vaccine passports be required for international travel?

Currently, almost all international travel from the UK is banned under lockdown restrictions. As restrictions ease, international travel may be allowed again, though, with rising cases of coronavirus in Europe, it is uncertain whether travel bans or quarantine restrictions will be lifted in time for the summer holiday season.

In Europe, proposals have been put forward for a ‘Digital Green Certificate to help facilitate safe travel during the pandemic. Under the proposals, the certificates would show whether people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, whether they have recently tested negative for the virus and whether they have previously recovered from the virus after contracting it.

The certificate would be free of charge, available in digital and paper format and valid in EU countries. It is hoped by EU officials that the scheme will be up and running by the summer tourist season.

In the UK, discussions regarding vaccine passports for international travel are ongoing.


What has been proposed on the topic of vaccine passports in the UK?

The UK Government is currently considering whether and how vaccine passports could be used. This week, the Government said that it might only be possible to implement a scheme of vaccine passports after everybody has been offered a vaccine. 

It has been suggested that vaccine passports could be required for entry to sports stadiums, theatres and other such venues. Individual pubs and restaurants may also be able to request to see vaccine passports, it is understood.

The Government is hoping to say more on the topic of vaccine passports in early April.


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