YVONNE FOVARGUE MP: Concerns over 'vaccine passports'
Yvonne Fovargue is the Labour MP for Makerfield
I recently received my first dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine. It was uplifting to see the NHS staff and volunteers working hard to process the steady flow of people arriving.
The vaccine rollout is making incredible progress and I pay tribute to all those involved in the effort.
While I firmly believe that vaccines are the most effective public health intervention against COVID-19 - both to protect people against the virus and to enable restrictions to be lifted – I recognise that some people are vaccine-hesitant.
Some people might simply not want to have it and others have may have concerns about safety.
Vaccines teach the body’s immune system to recognise and fight the infection they have been designed to protect against.
Approval is only given if the UK regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – is satisfied that the vaccine is both safe and effective.
Vaccines are not mandatory. The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, which applies to England and Wales, is clear that any health protection regulations “may not include provision requiring a person to undergo medical treatment”. This includes vaccinations.
The UK Government has launched a review into whether “COVID-status certificates” could play a role in reopening parts of our economy, including restrictions on social contact. The review is expected to report before June 21, 2021.
Vaccine passports may provide additional protection for the vulnerable and give businesses in certain sectors the confidence they need to go forward.
However, there are legitimate concerns about implications for civil liberties and discrimination. This is a highly complex area.
Any decisions on vaccine passports must be based on firm evidence, such as the effect of vaccinations on transmission and international best practice.
Ministers must avoid a two-tier system in which those who are not vaccinated - especially those who are marginalised - are blocked from essential public services, work or housing.
These are all hugely important considerations that I hope the Government will reflect on.
The way out of the pandemic has been provided by our amazing scientists, our NHS, our armed forces, and hundreds of thousand of volunteers.
Supported by the increased protection offered by these vaccines, the Government has set out its plan to ease restrictions, with the aim to have all legal limits on social contact removed by June 21, 2021.
Progress in lifting restrictions will depend on four tests: the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, an assessment of new variants and keeping infection rates below a level that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
I am pleased that the Government has adopted a cautious approach to lifting restrictions.
I believe Ministers must assess the data and follow the evidence at every step.
In the meantime, continued restrictions must be accompanied by proper economic support.
For this lockdown to be the last, we need to continue to cut the chains of transmission.
It is therefore more important than ever that the test, trace and isolate system is working and working well.
Financial support for people who are required to self-isolate should also be made available to everyone who needs it.
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