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Covid passport policy lacks scientific evidence base

9 September 2021

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee publishes the Government’s response to the Committee’s report on Covid-status certification released on 12 June.

Covid passports are being introduced for entry to some venues, including nightclubs and live sporting events, to control the spread of the virus according to the Government. However, new analysis and a lack of evidence provided by the Government in its response to the Committee’s report casts doubt on whether this will work in practice.

Citing the diminishing benefits of a certification system as more and more people get vaccinated, the Committee’s report demanded that the Government provide scientific evidence backing-up its claims that requiring Covid passports was necessary to reopening the economy and society if it pressed ahead with plans to implement them. Doing so through the publication of the public health case, cost-benefit analyses, and modelling of the potential impacts would be essential to public understanding and acceptance of the system, the report said.

The Government failed to give any such evidence in its response.

Added to this, the latest analysis by Public Health England (PHE) found that although being fully vaccinated protects against infection and severe symptoms, it unlikely to do much to stop the spread of the virus if people become infected. Jabbed and unjabbed individuals carry similar amounts of the virus. Researchers call this having a similar viral load.

Concerns over viral load of the Delta variant appeared in Sage meeting minutes from 22 July. Sage, the Government’s scientific advisory panel, warned that there is ‘limited vaccine effect against onward transmission’ of the variant. Given that this meeting was held before the Government responded to the Committee’s report, the Committee has severe concerns about the way in which this policy has been developed and kept under consideration.

Chair's comments

Reacting to the Government’s response, Committee Chair William Wragg said,

“We have often heard throughout the pandemic that the Government will follow the science, but when afforded the opportunity to provide it on Covid passports, it has failed to do so. All we have is a flimsy claim that there is a public health case, but without any foundation for the claim to stand on.”

“With recent analysis suggesting that vaccinated people carry as much of the virus as the unvaccinated into any setting, the disappointing lack of any scientific basis for the Government’s decision to go ahead could reasonably lead people to conclude that there is in fact no such basis. If the real goal is to drive vaccine uptake, then it is a deeply cynical approach that will be counterproductive.”

“Following through on such a costly, discriminatory and, potentially, ineffective policy will have consequences for trust in and acceptance of the Government’s measures to tackle the pandemic. It’s surely either time to prove how this’ll work or to put an end to it.”

Further information

Image: WHO-unsplash