England to launch digital vaccine passport on Monday

The NHS app will be used to demonstrate COVID-19 vaccination status.
By Tammy Lovell
04:53 am
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Photo by Luis Alvarez/ Getty Images

People in England will be able to use the NHS app as a vaccine passport from next week.

Currently the NHS app is currently used to request repeat prescriptions, book GP appointments and view medical records. GPs can also enable a feature on the app which allows it to show vaccine statuses, including COVID.

An update which goes live on 17 May will enable the app to display COVID vaccine records, in a separate tab, so there is no longer the need to contact a GP.

Citizens who have had two jabs will be able to use the app to demonstrate their vaccination status when travelling abroad.

Vaccination status will also be available in paper format by calling 119 at least five days after a second vaccine dose.

WHY IT MATTERS

England’s vaccine passports is intended to enable travel abroad when borders open on May 17. They could potentially allow travellers to avoid the need to quarantine when visiting certain destinations.

Guidance on the UK government website says: “There are not many countries that currently accept proof of vaccination. So for the time being, most people will still need to follow other rules when travelling abroad – like getting a negative pre-departure test.”

THE LARGER CONTEXT

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for a “global standard to securely record digital proof of vaccination” and has developed its own Travel Pass app, which allows passengers to prove they are safe to fly by displaying a negative COVID test result.

European officials plan to roll out an EU-wide Digital Green Pass which will use QR code technology, by June.  The certificates are intended to facilitate free movement during the pandemic by providing proof that a person has either been vaccinated, received a negative test result or recovered from the virus. 

Denmark, Iceland and Israel are among the countries that have developed their own vaccine passports. Sweden plans to roll out its vaccine passport scheme in June.

Meanwhile, the Ada Lovelace Institute yesterday published a paper recommending requirements that governments should meet before permitting vaccine passports.

In an executive summary it says “Digital vaccine passports are novel technologies, built on uncertain and evolving science. By creating infrastructure for segregation and risk scoring at an individual level, and enabling third-parties to access health information, they bring profound risks to individual rights and concepts of equity in society.”

ON THE RECORD

Health secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News: “The certification, being able to show that you’ve had a jab, is going to be necessary for people to be able to travel. So, we want to make sure people can get access to that proof, not least to show governments of other countries that you’ve had the jab if they require that in order to arrive.”

 

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