Britain will provide vaccine COVID-19 certificates for its residents if they are required by other countries, although it is not planning to introduce them for use at home, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Tuesday.
“Internationally, if other countries will require a vaccine certificate, then I think it’s right that we facilitate it,” Zahawi told the BBC in an interview.
“We’re not looking at the domestic use of vaccine passports, that’s not in our planning. As the prime minister described, it’ll be the national vaccination programme combined with rapid testing that I think is the way forward.”
Experts have warned that such schemes could provide a way into greater monitoring of people’s movements and health status. A paper published in the Lancet noted that these types of passes have some potential to facilitate safer movement but that privacy concerns are a significant — but not insurmountable — hurdle.
The World Health Organization has come out against “immunity passports,” which run on the basis of identifying someone who has already had the virus — or vaccinated against it — as being safe to travel.
While there is a growing body of research suggesting COVID-19 antibodies can be present for months after infections, scientists and the WHO have stressed that their presence does not equal immunity to reinfection.
Zahawi said Britain was expecting the supply of vaccines to increase next month and he was confident of meeting a target to give first vaccine doses to the 32 million people in top priority groups by the end of April.
“I see much greater volume in March and April – tens of millions of doses coming through,” he said.
Britain has vaccinated 15.3 million people with a first dose and 539,630 with a second dose, the fastest roll-out per capita of any large country.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he expected vaccine supplies to increase as manufacturing accelerated.
An influential group of lawmakers in Johnson’s Conservative Party is urging an end to the lockdown as soon as the most vulnerable nine groups are vaccinated. They want no more rules beyond May 1.
“We’re all filled with sorrow for the people we’ve lost, the harms that we’ve suffered but we don’t honor those we’ve loved and lost by wrecking the rest of our lives,” lawmaker Steve Baker said. “We’ve got to find a way to rebuild our society and our economy and our prospects, our livelihoods.”
Britain is speaking to other countries about giving its citizens certificates showing they have been vaccinated so that they can travel abroad in the future to countries that require them.
“That’s going to be very much in the mix, down the road I think that is going to happen,” Johnson said.
“What I don’t think we will have in this country is, as it were, vaccination passports to allow you to go to the pub, or something like that.”
Johnson said Britain would ensure mass vaccination and rapid testing for nightclubs and theaters rather than demanding certification for normal life.
— with other Reuters files and Global News files