Evidence ‘very mixed’ on using vaccine passports to increase uptake

Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that restricting entry to nightclubs and other large indoor venues to vaccinated individuals only will help to reduce Covid transmission.

The evidence is “very mixed” on whether vaccine passports can encourage wary members of the public to get fully jabbed, a leading scientific adviser to the government has said.

However, he warned that vaccine passports could “harden” the views of people reluctant to get double jabbed and “may well not be very effective” at increasing uptake. It is for politicians, and not scientists, to ultimately decide on such a policy, Prof Ferguson added.

The comments follow cross-party criticism raised against the government after it confirmed plans to press on with the introduction of vaccine passports for large indoor venues and mass gatherings, despite previously pledging not to implement the measure.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday that introducing such a requirement within these settings is the “right thing to do” to ensure the whole economy remains open and avoid another national lockdown.

Prof Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said it is “understandable that we demand vaccination as a risk mitigation strategy” when it comes to foreign travel, but that within our own borders different measures can be taken.

During an online conversation with Bronwen Maddox, director of the Institute for Government, he said that restricting entry to nightclubs to only the double-jabbed “will reduce the risks of transmission in those venues”.

But he added: “I think the evidence is very mixed as to … whether that’s an effective strategy.

“I think, in some sense coercion often hardens people’s views and if somebody is resistant to being vaccinated, these sort of measures may well not be very effective at increasing vaccine uptake. In the people more in the middle who haven’t quite got round to getting a jab, it may well have an effect.”

Prof Ferguson, whose modelling was instrumental to the UK going into lockdown in March 2020, said he has “some sympathy” for requiring health and care workers to be vaccinated, due to the risks posed to people they look after.

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