Thank you for contacting me regarding your apprehension about the potential introduction of Covid-19 passports. After considering the current evidence I too do not support the rollout of domestic COVID-19 passports based on vaccination status alone.
Firstly I want to highlight that 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 recognise that some people are vaccine-hesitant. Some people might simply not want to have it and others may have concerns about safety.
Vaccines teach the body’s immune system to recognise and fight the infection they have been designed to protect against. Approval is only given if the UK regulator – the Medicines and healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – is satisfied that the vaccine is both safe and effective.
However, despite my support for the vaccine rollout, I am concerned that COVID-19 Passports might cause more harm than good. For example 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.
As you may know, the Government recently conducted a review into the use of “COVID-status certification”. While the review concluded that the domestic use of certification would not be mandated, the Prime Minister said on 19 July that it is the Government’s intention to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other large capacity venues from September. It has also been reported that the Government is considering other settings where vaccination may become a requirement of entry. However, full details have yet to be announced.
I am concerned that Ministers have created confusion over COVID-19 passports. I share the frustration that will be felt by many at their indecision and the stress and confusion that this has caused for businesses as well as individuals. The Prime Minister has become a super-spreader of confusion by allowing individuals to enter nightclubs for the next 6 weeks without any checks. It’s evident that the Government is lost on this issue and have failed to consider the many implications of their introduction.
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. In my view, the use of COVID-19 passports capturing only vaccination status would be costly and impractical. And being double jabbed does not prove that an individual is not carrying the virus. Testing for access to venues would be more efficient, for example, and it would give people and businesses more certainty.
These are all hugely important considerations. Any proposals that Ministers bring forward in September must be safe, fair and offer value for money for the taxpayer.
As your elected representative in Parliament, I will follow developments in this area closely and bear in mind the points you have raised.