An open letter was released on 11 June from the Deputy Chief Medical Officer to UK residents who volunteered to take part in Covid-19 vaccine trials, providing reassurance that they would not be disadvantaged if a domestic vaccine passport is introduced.
The letter, which was written by Professor Jonathan Van Tam, gives thanks to volunteers of Covid vaccine clinical trials, stating that they are “creating great benefit for our society and indeed the rest of the world.”
Crucially, the letter states: “The Department of Health and Social Care makes a firm commitment to all volunteers in formally approved COVID-19 vaccine trials in the UK that you will not be disadvantaged in terms of any future domestic vaccine certification, if introduced, compared to anyone else who has had their vaccines under the standard NHS programme.”
This promise applies to all Covid-19 vaccine trial volunteers including those who may have had a licensed or unlicensed vaccine, a placebo, and those who are taking part in a ‘mix and match’ study such as ComCov or CovBoost. The letter also states that the same promise applies to people who are currently taking part in a Covid-19 vaccine trial which have recently started, those which are still in follow-up, and trials which are planned for the future.
Van Tam writes: “You will be covered by any potential UK domestic vaccine certification from the moment you enter a trial until you leave. At the end, if you have had a vaccine that is not going to be licensed or a placebo (dummy), you will remain certified during a grace period to allow you to have the NHS standard vaccines if these are recommended by the doctor in charge of the trial.
“The government has assured me it intends to take all the action available to ensure that this is the case and that you will never be disadvantaged.”
Currently, a domestic vaccine passport has not been introduced in the UK, however, the government has discussed introducing a vaccine status certification system earlier in the year to be used for large events, stadiums, and nightclubs. Although, the government quickly scrapped the idea after it faced backlash from the British public, who rightfully suggested that the introduction of a vaccine passport would be dangerous and cause unvaccinated individuals to be ostracised.
However, this letter suggests that the government has a road map for vaccine passports already laid out and ready to be implemented: “Operationally it will take a few weeks for the NHS to complete the programming work, but it will happen before the end of July.”
Within the letter, Van Tam states that the UK government currently does not believe that a vaccine should be required for travel as they are following the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) approach to international travel. However, the G7 and EU Commission, and other groups, have committed to an approach regarding sharing health status for travel, which includes vaccination status.
G7, which met in Cornwall from 11-13 June, discussed the potential introduction of vaccine passports at a G7 Health Ministers’ Meeting, stating that: “We should work to ensure that processes and national certification policies do not disadvantage certain groups of people, while retaining effective controls on the potential transmission of variants of concern and variants of interest. This includes working to ensure that participants in vaccine clinical trials are not disadvantaged.”
The government promises in this letter that they will make the case internationally that anyone who has participated in or is on a Covid vaccine trial should be treated the same in terms of certification as someone who has received a “deployed vaccine.”
“Until the NHS can make the technical fix in the next few weeks so that your NHS App vaccine certificate will show a ‘green tick’ as if you have been fully vaccinated under the standard NHS programme, it will be possible to obtain this proof for domestic purposes.
“The chief investigator for each UK trial, or the local principal investigator for your trial site, will send you a letter confirming your participation in the specific vaccine study and confirming that you have the same ‘protected’ status as someone who has received the approved vaccines.”
It seems as though this letter only confirms our worst fears: Domestic vaccine passports are on the horizon in the UK and are potentially looking to be introduced before restrictions are lifted on July 19th, and the NHS app will be used as the ID required for proving you have been vaccinated.
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