On Thursday 9th September the Scottish Parliament voted to introduce vaccine passports from 1st October.
The Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, had been critical of vaccine passports when the proposals for England were unveiled by Boris Johnson, as had Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the now partners in government, the Scottish Greens.
Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said the facts on the ground had changed – and that the scheme was “worth considering when cases are running at around 7,000 a day and once the entire adult population has had two doses”.
Mr Harvie may be right about the number of cases, but is clearly thinking of a future point with regards to the entire adult population having two doses of the vaccine, as we can see in the graph to the left, based on data from Public Health Scotland, via the BBC.
But do vaccine passports work?
Just out in EClinical Medicine, published in The Lancet, is a paper on the impact of vaccine passports on vaccination intentions. In short, while passports may have a positive impact on those who already have a positive view of such things, they may create problems amongst the very people and in the very places where we most need to increase uptake.
So, if vaccine passports will not help improve vaccination uptake will they help prevent infection spread?
Firstly, while the vaccination programme has been a huge success in so many ways, no vaccine gives 100% protection to 100% of the people vaccinated. The phenomenon of “vaccine breakthrough”, in which a vaccinated person goes on to develop Covid, is well known.
Secondly, is it possible for a vaccinated person to develop asymptomatic Covid and pass it on? The literature seems divided on this, some suggesting that at least the virus load will be reduced, rendering them less infectious.
So, on balance, vaccine passports are potentially divisive, won’t increase vaccine uptake, and seem no adequate substitute for known, effective, mitigation.
Which begs the question, why no immediate, effective mitigation?
On 22nd June this year the avowed Scottish Government policy of “suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there” changed to “suppress the virus to a level consistent with alleviating its harms while we recover and rebuild for a better future”
Since that date there have been 225K new cases in Scotland. Of these a significant minority, still to be quantified, will suffer Long Covid and potential future health problems, adding a burden to an already overburdened NHS, a service which has also seen 24K NHS staff absences due to Covid in the same period.
There have been 502 deaths.
Sadly, despite the clear need to reintroduce effective mitigation, the Scottish Government have made the choice of Vaccine Passports instead. They represent the illusion of control, not the real thing. We will be no safer as a result.
Best wishes, on behalf of Zero Covid Scotland
As a p.s. On something more practical, the People’s Health Movement (PHM) Scotland are holding the Glasgow People’s Health Inquiry on 21st September, 14:30 to 16:40 via Zoom. An event well worth supporting, and Zero Covid Scotland hope to have a speaker giving feedback on our Public Hearing last Saturday (of which more soon) The Eventbrite link is below.