Vaccine passports that could allow Britons to vacation abroad are “feasible” but not yet ready to be introduced, experts have said.
Boosting hopes for international travel, a new report from the Royal Society said the plans were viable, but standards must be set in all countries before such a system is introduced.
The authors said more information is needed on how effective vaccines are in preventing infection and transmission of the virus, and maintaining long-term protective immunity, in order to establish how long a passport might be valid.
The scientists emphasized that “a broader debate” was needed on issues, such as the need for legal and ethical standards and data privacy.
Ministers have repeatedly rejected the idea of vaccine passports for use in the UK, but talks are ongoing on how the British can prove they’ve had the hit if they want to travel abroad.
There is said to be growing optimism in Whitehall about the possibility of overseas travel, with a source telling the Times: “It looks more and more positive on the summer holidays.
“Once the vaccination passport system is in place, it should be straightforward. It will not be easy, but we can see the way forward.
However, Foreign Minister James Cleverly said it would be “wrong” for him to speculate on whether summer vacation would be allowed this year.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said: “We cannot give guarantees because that is not how viruses work.”
Professor Christopher Dye, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford and one of the lead authors of the report, said the idea of a vaccine passport system was viable.
He said: “An effective vaccine passport system that allows a return to pre-Covid-19 activities, including travel, without compromising personal or public health, must meet a demanding set of criteria, but it is feasible.”
“First there is the science of immunity, then the challenges of something that works around the world that is durable, reliable and safe. There are the legal and ethical issues and if you can solve all of that, you must have the trust of the people. »
He said “great progress” has been made in addressing some of the challenges, but added: “We are not there yet.”
Professor Dye said: ‘At the most basic level, we are still collecting data on the exact effectiveness of each vaccine in preventing infection and transmission and on how long immunity will last.
Professor Melinda Mills, Director of the Leverhulme Center for Demographic Sciences at the University of Oxford and lead author of the report, said: ‘Understanding what a vaccine passport could be used for is a fundamental question: is it literally a passport to allow travel or could it be used nationally to allow incumbents greater freedoms?
‘The intended use will have significant implications for a wide range of legal and ethical issues that need to be fully explored and could inadvertently discriminate or exacerbate existing inequalities.
“International standardization is one of the criteria that we believe is essential, but we have already seen that some countries introduce vaccination certificates related to travel or linked to quarantine or attendance at events.
“We need a broader discussion on multiple aspects of a vaccine passport, from the science of immunity to data privacy, technical challenges, and the ethics and legality of how it could be used.”
The report establishes 12 key points that must be satisfied in order to deliver a vaccine passport.
– Compliance with benchmarks for Covid-19 immunity
– Accommodate differences between vaccines in their efficacy and changes in vaccine efficacy against emerging variants.
– Be internationally standardized
– Have verifiable credentials
– Have defined uses
– Be based on a platform of interoperable technologies
– Be safe for personal data
– be portable
– Be affordable for individuals and governments.
– Comply with legal standards
– Compliance with ethical standards
– Have conditions of use that are understood and accepted by passport holders.