The Government is not proposing to bring in a “vaccine passport” for people who have had a Covid-19 jab, Michael Gove has said.
The Cabinet Office minister said there are no plans for a so-called immunity passport for access to hospitality and entertainment venues once coronavirus jabs are introduced.
It comes less than a day after the new vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said jabs will not be compulsory – but that hospitality and entertainment venues might insist on seeing proof that customers have had one.
Asked if there would be a vaccine passport, Mr Gove told Sky News: “No, that’s not being planned.
“I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports and I don’t know anyone else in Government (who is)…”
He added: “I think the most important thing to do is make sure that we vaccinate as many people as possible.”
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Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Gove said: “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, that’s not the plan.
“What we want to do is to make sure that we can get vaccines effectively rolled out.”
He added: “Of course, individual businesses have the capacity to make decisions about who they will admit and why.
“But the most important thing that we should be doing at this stage is concentrating on making sure the vaccine is rolled out.”
Downing Street also rebuffed Mr Zahawi’s suggestion.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “There are no plans to introduce or require immunity passports that would bar people from certain venues who haven’t been vaccinated.”
On Monday, Mr Zahawi was asked whether people who get the Covid-19 jab will receive some kind of “immunity passport” to show they have been vaccinated.
He told the BBC: “We are looking at the technology. And, of course, a way of people being able to inform their GP that they have been vaccinated.
“But, also, I think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system – as they have done with the app.
“I think that, in many ways, the pressure will come from both ways, from service providers who’ll say ‘Look, demonstrate to us that you have been vaccinated’, but also we will make the technology as easy and accessible as possible.”
But on Covid-19 vaccines, he added: “I think it is right that it is voluntary.
“People have to be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to be vaccinated or otherwise.”
Commenting on the concept of immunity passports, Deborah Dunn-Walters, professor of immunology at the University of Surrey, said: “The restrictions on our daily lives over the past nine months have put a strain on all of us and the concept of vaccine passports can sound appealing as we look for possible ways to exit the pandemic.
“However, we need to understand more detail about the exact protection any future Covid-19 vaccine might provide before knowing if vaccine passports are a viable possibility to discuss.
“For example, how long would vaccination provide protection against contracting Covid-19? Would vaccination stop you from transmitting the illness as well as preventing you getting sick? These are just a couple of the questions that will need to be answered, on top of the ethical considerations, before we can start to consider the possibility of vaccine passports.”
Dr Ana Beduschi, from the University of Exeter Law School, added: “Conceivably, requiring individuals to display their health status routinely may be less restrictive on their freedoms than imposing a lockdown. However, it is crucial to examine the conditions linked to the implementation of immunity passports.
“In this regard, the availability and affordability of Covid-19 tests and, eventually, vaccines are key aspects. If some people cannot access or afford Covid-19 tests or vaccines, they will not be able to prove their health status, thus having their freedoms de facto restricted.
“Unless the tests and, once available, vaccines are accessible to all, any large-scale deployment of immunity passports could disproportionately segment the society and potentially breach the rights to equality and non-discrimination.”