Scientists urge caution after Tony Blair supports UK ‘Covid pass’, says an article in The Guardian.
“Robust Covid pass”
Scientists have urged caution after Tony Blair called for people fully vaccinated against Covid to have more freedoms than those who have not had both jabs, arguing it could stoke social divisions.
A report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, called “Less Risk, More Freedom”, backs the idea of a “robust Covid pass” for the fully vaccinated that could be used domestically to access venues and for travel abroad once vaccines are available to all adults in the UK. It could also show the recent testing status for those who are not able to be vaccinated.
But scientists have raised concerns, noting that a significant segment of the population has not been offered even one dose of the jab, while work is still needed to address vaccine hesitancy and a lack of access to vaccination in some groups.
John Drury, professor of social psychology at the University of Sussex and a member of the Sage subcommittee SPI-B, said that “while such passports are already being developed for international travel, they are unlikely to be used in the UK for domestic situations such as going to the pub”.
“The only area where they are still considering it is for live events,” said Drury. “However, here too the signs are that they will not go ahead.”
One of the main objections, said Drury, was that vaccine passports discriminate. “Of course, that is what they are designed to do. But in addition to creating a division between those who have the passport and those who do not, they are likely to reinforce and reproduce existing group inequalities,” he said, adding that poorer people and those of minority ethnic communities are less likely to be partly or fully vaccinated.
Drury said there was a wide range of people yet to be vaccinated, including “those unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons, those not on the priority list, those who haven’t found the opportunity, those who are hesitant, and those who are anti-vaxx”.
He added: “While the ability to demonstrate time-restricted testing status for those who aren’t able to be vaccinated would allow some people to enjoy the new privileges, it would still deny them to many others.”
Susan Michie, a professor of health psychology at University College London who is also on SPI-B, said the idea of a Covid pass should only be discussed once all concerns have been addressed around vaccination and access problems – such as needing time off work for jabs or difficulties using digital platforms – adding that even two doses of the jab do not offer 100% protection against the virus.
“The idea of vaccine passports when not everyone has been offered the vaccination and when there are disparities that have not been adequately addressed is very problematic. It is likely to increase social divisions between different sectors of society,” she said.
Michie said the current focus should be on taking all the measures needed to suppress the virus, with an emphasis “on safe settings rather than identifying ‘safe’ individuals”.
However, others said it was likely health passes would end up being widely used. Prof Christopher Dye, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, co-authored a report from the Royal Society setting out 12-point criteria for the development and use of Covid vaccine passports.
He said the idea had merits. “But while health passes do offer ‘Less Risk, More Freedom’, it is crucial that this applies to many people, not just the privileged few: that everyone has a chance to opt-in, and that passes are not used to exclude people from access to daily essentials, such as food and medicines.”
Dye said incorporating a time-limited testing status was important, and that while a digital format was ideal, paper-based passes should be valid too.
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Source: The Guardian