Subject: Oppose Covid Passes
Dear [MP’s name]
I am writing as your constituent to ask you to oppose the Government’s plans for mandatory vaccine passports, or indeed any type of domestic Covid pass.
Covid passports sacrifice equality, privacy and liberty, with no public health benefit. They would turn the UK into a two-tier, checkpoint society.
I am asking you to oppose Covid passes because they are:
Unevidenced: The only parliamentary committee to analyse Covid passes in detail, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), concluded that there is “no justification for them in the science and none in logic”. The Government’s own Covid certification review in July concluded that Covid passes would be “disproportionate” and should not be mandated. Since then, vaccination rates have only increased – so it is unclear what the Government’s policy change is in aid of. After months of nightclubs and large events being open to all, there can be absolutely no justification for this authoritarian, divisive and discriminatory move to impose vaccine IDs.
Discriminatory: Internal health passes would socially and economically exclude millions of disproportionately marginalised people. Vaccine IDs discriminate against young people, where uptake is lower and slower due to reduced risk; ethnic minority groups and migrants, particularly black and Asian people, where vaccine access may be lower, hesitancy higher, and the risk of exclusion higher; religious groups where hesitancy is higher or where beliefs (such as for Christian Scientists) typically reject medical interventions; disabled people, as some medical conditions may prevent individuals from being able to receive a vaccination; and pregnant or breastfeeding women, where hesitancy is particularly high.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told PACAC in late May 2021 that vaccine-only passes were not being considered, citing the “risk of either direct or indirect discrimination”. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi called vaccine passports “discriminatory and wrong” in a Westminster Hall debate earlier in the year, and as recently as July stated on Twitter that Covid passes would be discriminatory if vaccine-only.
Harmful to jobs and workers’ rights: Millions of people who work in night-time industries, events, or who attend conferences face being questioned about their personal medical choices and many risk losing their jobs if they decline or delay vaccination. The effect is likely to spillover to other sectors, reversing long-held protections for employees’ medical privacy.
Counter-productive: A major study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that vaccine passports would cause many people, particularly those in marginalised groups, to reject vaccination. Far from encouraging uptake, coercive measures harden uncertainty, breed distrust and deepen alienation.
Intrusive: Covid passes would lead to a checkpoint society. The purposes of such passes would inevitably expand and endure beyond the pandemic.
We know there are no silver bullet solutions. But there are far more proportionate, effective and inclusive measures than excluding healthy people without Covid IDs from society. Free and fair access to vaccines and healthcare; serious self-isolation support; an improved test and trace system; and proportionate safety measures are all needed to protect public health and get the country back to normal. But we can never get back to anything like normal as a checkpoint society that leaves people behind.
Please oppose Boris Johnson’s Covid IDs.
[Your name and address/postcode]
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To date, 11 rights groups, 16 peers and 83 MPs (44 Conservative, 25 Labour, 12 Lib Dems, 1 Green, 1 Ind) have joined the cross-party campaign to oppose COVID-status certificates. MPs and peers from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Conservative parties have signed a pledge: "We oppose the divisive and discriminatory use of COVID status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs." If you are a parliamentarian or organisation and you wish to join the list please email email@example.com
MPS LAUNCH CROSS-PARTY CAMPAIGN AGAINST COVID PASSES
To date, 11 rights groups, 16 peers and 83 MPs (44 Conservative, 25 Labour, 12 Lib Dems, 1 Green, 1 Ind) have joined the cross-party campaign to oppose COVID-status certificates. MPs and peers from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Conservative parties have signed a pledge: "We oppose the divisive and discriminatory use of COVID status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs."
If you are a parliamentarian or organisation and you wish to join the list please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to read the report
In light of Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove's review into whether COVID-status certificates should be used for segregation in the UK, we've launched a report detailing the case against making Britain a two-tier society.
We understand businesses have had a tough time, but fairness, rights and equality are more important than safety theatre. Covid passes make no one safer, but seriously harm rights and equality and are turning us into an exclusionary papers-carrying society. When businesses and events are open, they must be open safely and fairly for everyone. We’re writing to every business that denies entry, services or jobs to people based on their medical papers, to urge them to rethink.
If you know a business or event that demands Covid passes for entry, please email us.
There is no evidence that covid passes will improve public health. The only parliamentary committee to analyse Covid passes in detail, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), concluded that there is “no justification for them in the science and none in logic”.
A vaccine ID does not tell you that an individual does not have covid or cannot spread covid. Vaccination status primarily tells the individual about their own risk of illness from the virus.Hide extra content...Reveal more...
The availability of effective vaccines means that those most vulnerable to covid-19 are highly protected from serious illness. Over 90% of people aged over 16 years old across the four nations have received a first dose, and approximately 94% of the population has antibodies (ONS)
The available vaccines are not able to prevent infections or transmission of the virus. Whilst the vaccines have drastically cut severe illness, hospitalisations and deaths, Imperial College’s REACT study found they have little over 50% efficacy in preventing infections. The Health Secretary can attest to this, as he contracted covid in July.
The same study found that almost half of covid cases in mid July were among people who had received two vaccinations. Therefore, during a wave of infections, transmission of the virus is highly likely in vaccinated-only environments. A paper by researchers at Oxford University found that peak viral load of the Delta strain of the virus is similar in unvaccinated people as it is in vaccinated people, meaning there is a similar risk in an infected vaccinated person spreading the virus as an infected unvaccinated person.
The Government’s own covid certification review in July 2021 concluded that the “burden” of covid passes would be “disproportionate” to any benefits, and that they should not be mandated. Since then, vaccination rates have only increased – so it is unclear what the Government’s policy change is in aid of. If the Government’s analysis is that the situation is worse now than it was in July, the case for vaccine passes would be weakened further still, as vaccination coverage is considerably greater than it was in July.
Mass testing is not the answer. The MHRA, senior advisors at the Department of Health, and the Royal Statistical Society have all voiced concerns about the Government’s use of mass testing. Lateral flow tests (LFTs) suffer from inaccuracy and miss the majority (60%) of asymptomatic infections – the very purpose they would be deployed for. The Innova LFTs, which the Government has spent £3bn on, do not meet the acceptable standards set by the WHO for confirming or ruling out COVID-19 whilst the FDA issued an urgent recall of the tests due to accuracy issues and urged people to put them “in the trash”.
The recent Cochrane meta-analysis, carried out by an international, independent team of experts, concluded that there is “virtually no evidence for mass screening of asymptomatic individuals using rapid antigen tests in people with no known exposure.” Read more in our summary briefing on test certification.
Moreover, if community prevalence were high, people being tested could be exposed to the virus between tests and the events in question – e.g. on public transport to the event or pubs.
As PACAC concluded, there is no justification for covid passes in science and none in logic.
There is no silver bullet out of the pandemic. Free and fair access to vaccines, healthcare, quarantine support, test and trace, and proportionate safety measures are needed to protect public health.
The effect of Covid passes would be to socially and economically exclude people based on private medical data, and deny them basic freedoms. In doing so, some of the most marginalised in society would suffer discrimination.
Under equality law, it is unlawful to discriminate against people with ‘protected characteristics’ - which include age, disability, pregnancy and religion or belief.Hide extra content...Reveal more...
If the Government segregates society according to vaccination status:
Research shows that people on lower incomes are the most ‘hesitant’ or unlikely to receive Covid vaccines. The poorest in our society have been at disproportionate risk during the pandemic, working in sectors that broadly remained open whilst others worked from home. As a result, millions of working class people were exposed to the virus and acquired natural immunity, which research suggests is longer lasting than vaccine-induced immunity.
We cannot simply erase histories and experiences of discrimination and hostility that have created distrust – in fact, vaccine segregation would only deepen discrimination and alienate people even more. This would be disastrous for trust in public health authorities when trust is desperately needed.
Finally, it is important to remember that there are millions of citizens of the world who simply will not have access to Covid-19 vaccines for years to come. Only 1.8% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. As we emerge from the pandemic, disproportionate vaccine requirements should not unfairly impede their freedom of movement and close the world to them.
Some people have suggested that exemptions could be created to allow certain unvaccinated people with protected characteristics into vaccinated-only spaces – but a Covid pass would incur a serious privacy intrusion for those people. Others may deduce that the exempt individual has health problems, is pregnant, or has a certain belief system – this is not only an invasion of privacy, but could lead to disadvantageous treatment.
A recent major study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that Covid passes would harden vaccine rejection among many people in the UK, particularly those in marginalised groups. Far from encouraging uptake, coercive measures increase uncertainty, breed distrust and deepen alienation.
In fact, coercing people to have vaccines can be counter-productive if it lowers trust and raises suspicions.Hide extra content...Reveal more...
Further, the Government’s repeated U-turns and ‘review’ into vaccine passports has done little to foster trust. Many people are now understandably preoccupied with protecting their right to freely choose vaccinations, anxious about how it could affect their employment, and worried about the threat of social exclusion, rather than building a positive association with their free choices over covid vaccines. Warranted distrust in proposals for an unprecedented system of vaccine checkpoints could rapidly blend into distrust of the whole vaccine programme.
There is some precedent in the UK on vaccine compulsion. In 1853, the Vaccination Act made smallpox vaccinations of infants compulsory; in 1867, vaccinations were made compulsory for all under-14s. The new laws resulted in fines, prosecutions, court challenges and even a mass protest of 100,000 people. The policy had sparked an anti-vaccination movement and the emergence of the National Anti-Vaccination League. Eventually, in 1898, the law was changed so that vaccines were no longer mandatory and the anti-vaccination movement subsided. Today, the Public Health Act 1984 specifically prohibits forced vaccinations – and we have some of the highest vaccine uptake rates in Europe. It would be backwards and counter-productive for the UK to make the same mistakes of coercive Victorian medicine policies.
The UK has a proud history of opposition to ID cards. We are not a papers-carrying country. But covid passes would turn us into a two-tier, checkpoint society where we each have to show an app or certificate simply in order to enjoy public life. This would be a serious break from our long-guarded democratic traditions and would disadvantage marginalised people.Hide extra content...Reveal more...
In fact, when arguing against ID cards in 2003, Michael Gove – who is now leading the Government’s review of Covid Status Certificates - said:
“We as free citizens devolve power upwards. We don’t operate at the license or leisure or pleasure of those who happen to govern us at any given point (…) The idea that we should be licensed to exist by the state is, as a matter of principle, wrong.”
However, covid passes would do precisely that – they would be our license to exist.
The combination of apps with sensitive health data and the subversion of everyday businesses and events into checkpoints could constitute the biggest expansion of the surveillance state ever seen in the UK.Hide extra content...Reveal more...
Proposals for Covid Status Certificates must be viewed in the context of the ever-growing surveillance state and growing problems with data exploitation. In particular, we have been observing and challenging moves by political and corporate powers towards biometric surveillance systems for border control, law enforcement and generalised surveillance.
Many of the covid pass proposals would rely on facial recognition on an app. Once the population had been forced to accept this, it would not be too long before facial recognition checks came off our phones – after all, not everyone has a smart phone – and onto facial recognition cameras at so-called “seamless” checkpoints.
Tech vendors will claim facial recognition is necessary to prevent vaccine pass fraud, and also that it makes the certificate “more private” than an ID card as it won’t need to show other personal details like your name and address. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, biometric health passes could easily be like ID cards on steroids. Having your private medical data digitally connected to permanent, unchangeable, biologically identifying data like your facial biometric can be dangerously more intrusive than an ID card. Facial recognition opens the possibility of us all becoming walking ID cards, whose data can be accessed with or without our choice.
Covid Status Certificates would likely begin with limitations meaning they could only be used for covid-19 – but after the huge cost and reorganisation of society, this would never last. Covid passes would inevitably expand to be used for other purposes. The rationale underpinning the proposal would be applied to other vaccines, seasonal influenza and other health issues – and potentially much more. It is quite possible that biological risk scores could expand and morph over time.
It is also likely that the first proposals for Covid Status Certificates will claim to be time-limited – but this would never last. If we accept covid certificates, we will never be able to get rid of digital health passes. Almost every promise about ‘temporary’ measures over the past year has been broken as they have endured and expanded. As the saying goes, nothing is so permanent as a temporary government programme.Hide extra content...Reveal more...
If people accept the claim of authorities that covid passes are the only way for us to get our freedom back, taking them away will create insecurity. Similarly, over-bearing airport security theatre and many of the excessive counter-terror laws enforced post-9/11 have never been rolled back, but expanded.
This isn’t even as simple as a division between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. As more research emerges about the effectiveness of different vaccines against different coronavirus strains, it is feasible that covid passes could be used to put controls on people who received less effective vaccines or who require boosters.Hide extra content...Reveal more...
And, it’s not even just about controls from authorities – it’s also about the severely divisive social impact covid passes would have. The segregation of vaccinated and unvaccinated people will lead to fear, hatred, and a sense of entitlement among some to be abusive to others who are suspected of being a ‘risk’. A national policy allowing or encouraging such division could severely fuel and exacerbate hostility between social groups.
We are experiencing one of the greatest challenges the world has faced since WWII. The best way we can get through this is together – with compassion, care and community. However, Covid Status Certificates would force people apart, leading to division and discrimination.
Bodily autonomy is an important aspect of the right to privacy. Compulsory vaccination, as an involuntary medical treatment, amounts to an interference with the right to a private life (Solomakhin v Ukraine). We believe individuals have the right to make their own choices about their own bodies.Hide extra content...Reveal more...
UK laws generally respect medical consent and mandatory vaccines are prohibited under the Public Health Act. However, vaccine passports would clearly cause people to feel coerced, rather than supported, to receive vaccines. They would have a similar effect to mandatory vaccine policies, which are typically imposed by exclusion or penalties for those who decline vaccines. The penalty of reduced liberties for otherwise healthy individuals who refuse medical treatment or testing would mark a serious change in our public health system.
A vaccine passport is a proposed document or digital pass that details the covid-19 vaccinations an individual has received.
A Covid Status Certificate is a proposed digital pass that details the covid-19 vaccinations and/or recent covid-19 test results than an individual has received. It is envisaged for use by businesses, services and events in order to exclude people who have not received a covid-19 vaccine, people who have not had a recent covid test or people who have had a recent positive test result.
We don’t know yet exactly what shape the Covid Status Certificate proposals might take. In Israel, the covid “green pass” can be a print-out QR code for people who do not use smart phones.
No, a covid pass would be nothing like a driving license. A driving license provides evidence of a qualification. We do not need a qualification merely in order to live.
No, it would be nothing like a yellow card. Unlike yellow fever certificates, the Covid Status Certificate has been envisaged as a population-wide, digital pass for access to domestic businesses, services and events.
Evidence of a yellow fever vaccination is typically a paper document provided for entry to select countries where the local risk of yellow fever – which has a far higher fatality rate than covid-19 – is high.
The WHO currently advises against requirements of proof of Covid-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition of departure or entry, given that there are “critical unknowns” regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission. The WHO states:
“A number of scientific unknowns remain concerning the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines: efficacy in preventing disease and limiting transmission, including for variants of SARS-CoV-2; duration of protection offered by vaccination; timing of booster doses; whether vaccination offers protection against asymptomatic infection; age and population groups that should be prioritized for vaccination, specific contraindications, how long before travel vaccines should be offered; and possible exemption of people who have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.”
Vaccination entry requirements have never been imposed as blanket rules internationally – they should be specific, limited and proportionate to the local context and risks associated with individual countries.
You can read all the reasons above on why vaccine passports, even with exemptions, are unnecessary, divisive, discriminatory and wrong.
It’s important to consider that even a covid pass showing an individual is medically exempt would incur a serious privacy intrusion, leading others to deduce that the exempt individual must have health problems or is pregnant. This is not only an invasion of privacy, but could lead to disadvantageous treatment – particularly in an employment context.
Businesses can broadly decide who they do and do not serve. However, if businesses deny services based on vaccine passes, they may be at risk of unlawfully discriminating against people on the basis of protected characteristics (see our section above on discrimination. The Government has a duty to protect people from discrimination too – so if public authorities support checkpoint systems that lead to unlawful discrimination, the Government could be breaching its legal duties too.
No. We need serious public health policies, not a reductive ultimatum between life under house arrest or living on tag. Vaccine passports are not a silver bullet solution – in fact, there’s no evidence they are any kind of solution at all. To protect public health and avoid future lockdowns we need free and fair access to vaccines and healthcare, adequate support for infectious people to quarantine, a highly effective test and trace system, and proportionate public safety measures.
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