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Updated 22 July 2021
Since last year’s vaccine rollout in the United Kingdom, the concept of ‘vaccine passport’ has proven to be a somewhat omnipresent topic in discussions held by health experts, government officials, and academics nationwide.
COVID vaccine passport, as a possible means for inoculated individuals to regain their freedom of movement, has since raised both hope and concern among health experts and rights groups particularly pertaining to its seemingly imminent deployment.
Here is everything you need to know about the COVID passport in the United Kingdom; the latest development, potential risks and benefits, as well as possible implementation.
Table of Contents
Vaccine passport and COVID passport explained
Not to be mistaken with ‘immunity passport,’ the so-called COVID passport is a means of verifying an individual’s COVID credentials which include their vaccination status, latest test result, and COVID recovery status for those who had contracted the virus. Vaccine passport, meanwhile, may be limited to showing only COVID vaccination status.
The digital certificate in UK may likely be in the form of an app allowing Brits to store their verifiable COVID credentials on their mobile devices. By proving their vaccination status, users may then engage in activities such as going to pubs, attending social events, returning to schools or offices, and even travelling abroad.
NHS vaccine passport
UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has confirmed that the NHS app will be utilized as a vaccine passport.
It allows people to demonstrate and share their Covid vaccination status through the app or paper certificate. For people who have not yet been vaccinated, it will record any recent negative tests, or whether they have tested positive in the last six months and are likely to have natural immunity. The app can also be used to seek information about the COVID-19 virus and order prescriptions.
Digital passports last for 28 days if you are double-jabbed, but this automatically renews. It lasts 48 hours after a negative PCR or lateral flow test, and for 180 days after a positive PCR test. One you have registered the app, you can use your face or fingerprint to log in rather than a password if you want.
How to get the NHS vaccine passport
- After you have installed the app, start by selecting ‘continue with GP login’.
- This will match you with your NHS record. You will need your NHS number or name, your date of birth and your postcode, as well as an email address and phone number.
- If you don’t know your NHS number, you can still use the app, it just needs to check who you are by checking your details.
- Then you will see an option called ‘get your NHS Covid Pass’.
- Click on that, and you will be asked to let the app access your information.
You can also get a paper passport two weeks after having your second dose of the vaccine. You should get it within five working days. You can do this by visiting the NHS website or calling 119. But do not call 119 if you are travelling in more than four weeks time.
Currently you can use the Pass to travel, or access events as part of a trial being run by the government.
Click the travel link and you will be given a Pass on the app, which is a QR code as well as the details of your two Covid vaccinations. You can download a PDF copy of this, or get it emailed to you.
For accessing events:
- One way is to do a self-administered Covid test within 48 hours of going to an event, then register a negative result via the app. If you get a test done at a centre by someone else, this is done for you.
- Other ways are to have had your second jab at least two weeks beforehand, prove natural immunity or be exempt.
Who can get the vaccine passport
You access you vaccine passport if the following apply:
- you’ve had 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine
- you had your vaccination in England
- you’re aged 16 or over
You can use this service 2 weeks after you’ve had your 2nd dose.
If you were vaccinated as part of a trial, you can get an NHS COVID Pass exemption.
Vaccine passport potential benefits
The main use of the passport at the moment is to let you travel to countries on the ‘amber list‘ without quarantining. These include France, Greece, Germany and Italy. But it could be much more useful in the future.
As more and more countries are opening up their borders for vaccinated travellers, vaccine passports are increasingly viewed as the logical next step to reinstate cross-border travels.
From the end of September, people in England will have to prove they have had both COVID-19 doses to enter nightclubs, as well as for what are described as “other venues where large crowds gather”. This is the first time the Government has insisted on proving vaccination status to enter UK venues.
There’s a possibility that UK firms may be allowed to demand proof of vaccination from customers somewhere down the line. Also, with the UK reportedly requiring care home givers and staff to be fully vaccinated, there has been a need to provide proof of vaccination for existing staff as well as future hirings. An increasing number of care home operators across the UK have indeed required their staff to be fully vaccinated.
Vaccine passport potential risks
There are factually valid reasons why someone would want or need to opt-out of the COVID jab. For example, it is not recommended for pregnant women to take the jab unless they’re facing certain risks. Those with particular health conditions, namely allergies and immune system issues, have also been deemed unsuitable for the vaccine.
By its very nature, the implementation of COVID passports may very well create a division or a rift between those who have and have not been inoculated. A condition where only certain people are allowed to partake in activities or being preferred in an employment scenario would inevitably lead to major ethical concerns.
Further, should COVID passports take the form of a smartphone app, those who do not own one would be discriminated against further. The implementation of COVID passports in the UK could potentially sharpen existing inequalities, especially since the vaccine has not been offered or distributed evenly to everyone in the UK.