Written Evidence Submitted by Paul Gliddon

(C190115)

 

The prospect of Covid vaccination passports in the UK, which the UK government is considering as a response to Covid 19, has many implications (outlined below). Incidentally, I’m sorry that this is such a long email, but I’m sending it in case some of the following thoughts might be useful.

 

Obviously the UK can’t prevent other countries making a vax passport a condition of entry to their territories. But that shouldn’t automatically mean that British citizens should be required to have vax passports for activities within the UK.

 

If they were to be introduced, it isn't clear yet whether the government intends various organisations to have discretion over making them a condition of access to facilities/services, or whether the state would impose them on citizens more directly and more widely.

 

Another distinction to be made is between:

 

Many of the objections to Covid vaccination passports (‘vax passports’ for short) apply also to Covid immunity passports. Therefore the objections to vax passports discussed below can, generally speaking, be assumed to apply to immunity passports as well.

 

Irrespective of their exact form, vax passports within the UK would have serious consequences, including the following:

 

Final observations below are that, internationally: there would be some irony in the prospect of other countries with high levels of 'vaccine hesitancy' requiring vax passports as a condition of entry from elsewhere; and other objections arise, which advocates of vax passports probably haven’t thought through.

 

A vax passport programme within the UK won’t work:

 

A UK vax passport is unnecessary:

 

A vax passport in the UK would be discriminatory:

 

A UK vax passport would be repressive and excessive:

 

A British vax passport would have other problems of ethics, for instance if an extension of the scheme to children were to be proposed:

 

Other issues with the vax passport:

 

International implications of a vax passport:

 

Concluding comments

 

It’s understandable that vulnerable sections of the population might choose vaccination against Covid 19. They will probably require further vaccination year after year. However, a vaccine passport scheme, which would require mass vaccination, seems disproportionate, given the low risk of mortality which Covid 19 poses to much of the population, a risk likely to diminish further as treatment improves. It seems rational for vulnerable people to consider vaccination; it seems less rational for vaccines to be encouraged among healthy people who don't need them and for this to extend to vax passports. Neither, as argued earlier, do large-scale vax passport schemes sound workable. Moreover, such schemes carry the threat of mandatory vaccination by the back door.

 

A healthy population is more likely to result from people having scope to lead healthy lives (using gyms and other fitness facilities, getting adequate exercise and vitamin D outdoors, etc). A less healthy population, on the other hand, is likely to ensue from people needing vax passports to visit gyms, etc (as with Israel’s ill-judged scheme) and thus being deterred. It hardly benefits people’s health, moreover, if they’re bombarded with other restrictions, locked down, subjected to scaremongering propaganda, and losing their jobs and prosperity. A vax passport is a sign of a wider, misguided approach to managing health, one that rests on generating fear; it is sometimes termed a ‘freedom pass’, which is the ultimate of contradictions. We need instead to be more positive.

 

 

Notes

 

(1) The journal Nature has indicated the difficulties of determining effects of vaccinations on transmission (S. Mallapaty, Can COVID vaccines stop transmission? Scientists race to find answers’, Nature, 19 February 2021). Proving such effects sounds a somewhat over-ambitious aim, given the inevitable limitations of such research.

 

(2) 'New technology could help make vaccine passport our ticket to freedom', Sunday Telegraph, 28 February 2021, pp. 4-5. Despite its title, this article points out many problems with vaccine passports.

 

(3) The gov.uk website has 'Information for UK Recipients' for the Covid 19 vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna.

 

(4) For instance, Robert Yates of Chatham House, interviewed on BBC News 24, 13 March 2021, and his article: ‘The Health Priority for Italy’s G20 Presidency’ etc, 1 March 2021, www.ait.it

 

(5) European Commission, ‘Roadmap on vaccination’, update: Q3 2019, available via the EU website.

 

 

 

(April 2021)