Thank you to those who have contacted me about proposals for a COVID-19 vaccine passport. I know there are strongly held views on both sides of this debate.
While I firmly believe that vaccines are the most effective public health intervention against COVID-19 – both to protect people against the virus and to enable restrictions to be lifted – I do not support the rollout of domestic COVID-19 passports based on current evidence.
The UK Government has launched a review into whether “COVID-status certificates” could play a role in reopening parts of our economy, including restrictions on social contact. It will consider their potential use in reducing social distancing requirements for large events and other settings, such as hospitality. The review is expected to report before 21 June 2021.
While testing certification may provide additional protection for the vulnerable, as well as giving confidence to people attending large events, there are legitimate concerns about a nationwide rollout of a passport-style certificate.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that vaccine certification could discriminate against marginalised groups where take-up of the vaccine is lower, as well as the small number of people who cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons.
I believe Ministers must do everything possible to avoid a two-tier society in which those who are not vaccinated are blocked from essential services or excluded from hospitality settings. I am concerned that asking people to produce a vaccine certificate to access pubs, shops and other indoor settings, for example, is discriminatory; it will add burdens to businesses and it may come at a significant cost to the taxpayer. These are all hugely important considerations that I hope Ministers will reflect on.
This is a highly complex area. Any decisions must be based on firm evidence, such as the effect of vaccinations on transmission and international best practice. However, based on the UK Government’s evidence so far in relation to focus, efficacy and value, I will oppose the introduction of domestic vaccine/immunity passports.
I will continue to follow developments in this area closely and bear in mind the points you have raised.