A few people have got in touch with me about the idea of vaccine passports so I thought I would set out how I see the issue. As you may have read, the Government minister Michael Gove is leading a review into whether the UK should have a domestic Covid vaccine passport system.
The evidence about the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines both in preventing infection and reducing transmission is now gradually being published and the figures are very encouraging.
I understand the argument put forward by some young and healthy people that do not feel that they will be at risk from Covid, but that only looks at one part of the issue. They can still pass the virus on to someone else who is much more at risk – it may be a work colleague, or an older relative or somebody else – and that is why I think we all have a responsibility to get vaccinated because we’re not just protecting ourselves but also the people around us. I do not, however, support compulsory vaccination and nor does the Government.
On the issue of vaccine passports, there are two things to consider.
The first is that some countries in the world are likely to require evidence of vaccination before they will allow us to travel to their country. Therefore in order to facilitate UK citizens who want to travel abroad, the Government is very sensibly considering how proof of vaccination could be provided to those individuals. The requirement for vaccination is not in any way new: for example, there are some countries where you have to have a yellow fever vaccination, for example, before you can enter.
The second issue is whether there will be activities here in the UK where businesses, for example, will want to see proof of vaccination or of a negative Covid test before they allow people to enter their premises. There is a very tricky balance here between on the one hand the freedom of individuals to, of course, decline vaccination and on the other hand the desire of businesses to be able to say to customers that if you come to us you can be sure that all of the other people who will be there with you have either been vaccinated or have recently tested negative for Covid. The question, therefore, is to what extent should this be regulated?
I’d be interested in your views.
Hilary Benn MP