Covid vaccine documentation is here to stay, whether we like it or not

As every opinion pollster will tell you, how you word a question can drastically alter the response. 

As every opinion pollster will tell you, how you word a question can drastically alter the response. 

Take the following question: should the Government issue “immunity passports” to make it easier for hospitality businesses, transport companies and immigration control desks to check whether people have been vaccinated against Covid?

Most of us would probably recoil at such a “Big Brother” idea and fret about the impact on our civil liberties and on those of people who haven’t yet been offered their jabs or do not wish to receive them.

Let’s frame the question another way: should you be able to access your own medical records or should the state have the power to keep them secret from you and out of your reach? This time most of us would surely think the Big Brother side of the equation is the one that recommends withholding information.

Currently people do have the right to access their own records – healthcare professionals have a legal duty to divulge them if requested to do so. And if you ask your GP to see those records, you will find set down in them, among other things, “information about your medicine, allergies, vaccinations, previous illnesses and test results”.

So unless ministers suddenly rush through a legal requirement not to record vaccination information about the most deadly infectious disease to hit these shores in generations – which would be absurd – all the essential elements of a Covid immunity passport already exist.

The state records whether you have been inoculated, you have the right to access that documentation and thus you will be able to reproduce it and show a copy of it when asked.

This makes the current debate about immunity passports largely moot. Countries including Israel, the USA, Greece and Spain are already preparing to introduce new requirements for foreign national visitors to display their Covid immunity status. Many others are likely to follow suit.

Given that it is seen as more and more likely that not only will a Covid jab protect its recipient from contracting serious disease, but will also make him much less likely to infect others, that is quite understandable.

So rather than leaving GPs to face an inevitable avalanche of freedom of information requests from newly-inoculated over-50s anxious to get back to their sun loungers, ministers would be well advised to standardise a scheme that allows a fully vaccinated person to show a verifying stamp or certificate.

The real question is what limits to place on the scope of such a scheme within our own legal jurisdiction. Should, for example, restaurants be allowed to turn away anyone who has not had the jabs in order to be able to advertise that they are “Covid secure” while public anxiety persists?

Until the autumn, by which time ministers hope to have offered the jabs to all younger adults as well as all older ones, most of us would probably say no to that. But what about when we reach the stage that the only non-inoculated people are those who have taken a deliberate decision not to have the vaccine and therefore not to make their own contribution to the protection of society as a whole?

Should Charlie Mullins from Pimlico plumbers be permitted to demand that his workers have the injections, presumably to give domestic customers extra reassurance when his blue vans pull up outside their homes? According to vaccinations minister Nadhim Zahawi, that one is a no-no because “that is discriminatory”. “We are not that sort of country, it is important we do it by persuasion,” he says. But Mr Mullins says that he certainly won’t be hiring any future staff who have turned down the jabs. Perhaps a test case lurks in that particular plumbing pipeline.

None of this is going to be easy. Fine judgments are called for that weigh one person’s liberties against another’s. But the idea that there shouldn’t be Covid vaccine documentation at all is a non-starter. There already is.

Source Article