Britons who have been vaccinated against Covid could get an ‘immunity passport’ on the NHS app, the boss of Test and Trace has said.
Baroness Dido Harding told NHS bosses that her team was looking at updating the contact tracing app to also display vaccination status.
Immunity passports have been touted as a way to get swathes of society back to normal life, and allow millions to evade restrictions. This is because they would indicate someone is protected against the virus, and is able to fight it off without getting severely ill or dying.
Travel companies and airlines have signalled their support for the scheme, saying it could help to kick-start international travel.
But ministers are yet to give their blessing to any such scheme, which was initially suggested during the first wave of the pandemic.
Britons could soon receive ‘immunity passports’ on their NHS Covid-19 app to prove they have been vaccinated against the virus. (stock)
Britons vaccinated against Covid ‘may get QR codes on their mobile phones
Britons could be required to show QR codes on their phones to attend football matches, the theatre and other events, it was suggested today.
The unique codes would only be given to those who have been vaccinated against coronavirus, under plans being considered by ministers, to signal they can attend large gatherings currently considered to be ‘high risk’.
Those who refuse to get the Covid-19 jab would likely be refused entry to venues, as part of the same proposals.
It has previously been suggested that the NHS Covid-19 app could be recruited to identify those who have antibodies against the virus.
Mr Hancock hinted in May it could be used to display a code for those who are thought to have protection against the virus, which could allow them to return to a more normal life and evade some restrictions.
Whitehall sources stressed to The Daily Telegraph that the proposals were in their infancy and formal discussions were yet to be started.
A source told the newspaper that it had already been suggested that spectators at the Tokyo Olympics will be required to be vaccinated before attending.
‘I think there are lots of people who think it is a logical extension and lots of people are interested in it,’ they said.
‘One way of opening up society would be those people who have had vaccinations carrying some kind of QR code or some sort of immunity certification which shows that they have been tested.’
Baroness Harding told an event organised by the Health Service Journal last week that her team was investigating ‘Covid-19 passports’ for the app.
She said it was her hope ‘in the future to be able to have a single record as a citizen of your test results and whether you’ve been vaccinated’.
‘We are working very closely with the vaccine team to make sure that as we build tools that will enable people to be testing themselves at home and recording the results of their tests that we build an integrated data architecture,’ she added, reports The Times.
The Department for Transport is also looking at stamping the passports of tourists to show they have been vaccinated, reports suggested yesterday.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), based in Montreal, Canada, also said it was looking at developing its own digital passport for travellers.
Its CEO Alexandre de Juniac said: ‘Testing is the first key to enable international travel without quarantine measures.
‘The second key is the global information infrastructure needed to securely manage, share and verify test data matched with traveller identities in compliance with border control requirements.’
Australian airline Qantas hit the headlines last week after it said that all those wishing to take its flights would need to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The carrier’s boss, Alan Joyce, said the move was a ‘necessity’ and it was likely to become a ‘common thing’ for airlines around the world.
He warned, during an interview with Australia’s Nine Network, the airline was looking at ways to change its terms and conditions for international travellers.
He said: ‘We will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft for international visitors coming out and people leaving (Australia) we think that’s a necessity’.
Boris Johnson has suggested that those who repeatedly test negative for Covid-19 should get a ‘freedom pass’ allowing them to return to a more normal life, but is yet to signal his backing for ‘immunity passports’.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference last week, he said: ‘This system is untried. There are many unknowns.
‘But if it works, we should be able to offer people who test negative the prospect of greater freedoms – to meet up in certain contexts with others who have tested negative.
He added: ‘We will give support to those who have tested positive to help them with isolation.
‘But they will know that at the end of their isolation they too will have the prospect of greater freedoms.’
Downing Street has warned the plan is still ‘some way off’.
In May, Matt Hancock confirmed ministers were looking at a ‘system of certification’ that would signify people who are safe to go back to work and mix freely with others.
And in April, the Health Secretary said Britons who have already have fought off the coronavirus could be given ‘immunity wristbands’.
Australian airline Quantas has warned it is looking at forcing all passengers to get vaccinated against the virus before they travel on its flights
Pfizer and Moderna have both revealed their vaccines against the virus are at least 90 per cent effective, with the UK’s regulator the MHRA expected to approve them for use in the country in the coming weeks.
As many as four million doses of Pfizer’s jab are expected to arrive this side of 2020, with a further delivery due in the new year.
Oxford’s vaccine has also been shown to be 60 per cent effective in trials when given as two full doses, or 90 per cent effective when given as a half-dose and a full–dose.
It is based on different technology to the others. While Pfizer and Moderna’s use virus mRNA, a type of protein, to trigger an immune response, their’s uses Covid-19 spike proteins attached to a weakened flu virus.
REVEALED: THE TRUTH ON COVID IMMUNITY, ANTIBODIES AND T CELLS
Antibodies are substances produced by the immune system which store memories of how to fight off a specific virus.
They come in different forms and may attack viruses and destroy them themselves, or may force the body to produce other kinds of immune cells and white blood cells to do the dirty work for them.
They can only be created if the body is exposed to the virus by getting infected for real, or through a vaccine or other type of specialist immune therapy.
Once antibodies have been created once – the body essentially moulds them around a virus when it encounters one in the blood – the body usually retains a memory of how to make them and which ones go with which virus.
Generally speaking, antibodies produce immunity to a virus because they are redeployed if it enters the body for a second time, defeating the bug faster than it can take hold and cause an illness.
Scientists are still unsure on the truth on immunity because Covid-19 has only been around since January – meaning its long-term effects are still unclear.
So far cases of people getting infected more than once have not been numerous nor convincing.
With some illnesses such as chickenpox, the body can remember exactly how to destroy it and becomes able to fend it off before symptoms start if it gets back into the body. But it is so far unclear how long Covid-19 patients are protected for.
Evidence is beginning to suggest that antibodies disappear in as little as eight weeks after infection with the coronavirus, scientifically called SARS-Cov-2.
However, antibodies are only one type of substance that can produce immunity. The immune system is a huge web of proteins that have different functions to protect the body against infection.
T cells — which can’t be detected by the ‘have you had it’ antibody tests — made in response to the infection may offer a form of immunity that lasts several times longer.
T cells are a type of white blood cell that are a key component of the immune system and help fight off disease.
Other scientific studies have shown people who have had a common cold in the past two years have T cells that show ‘cross-reactive protection’ against Covid-19.