UK Working on Plans for Annual Coronavirus Vaccine, Vaccine Passports Confirmed: Minister

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 23: Britain's COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi holds a media briefing on the coronavirus Hdisease (COVID-19) pandemic at Downing Street on June 23, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Tom Nicholson-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Tom Nicholson-WPA Pool/Getty Images

Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi confirmed that the government will pursue vaccine passports as a condition of entry to nightclubs and is exploring an annual booster strategy against the Chinese coronavirus.

Addressing the House of Commons on Thursday, Mr Zahawi said that the government will be pursuing the co-administration of seasonal flu and coronavirus vaccines, stating: “The operational plan is to go early — in early September — for both the Covid boost and the flu campaign. However, he will know that flu is not in the Covid category in that it is endemic. We are hoping to transition Covid towards where flu is with an annual vaccination programme, but it is a very different virus to deal with.”

Government ministers had said early on in the deployment of vaccines that Britons would be expected to be annually vaccinated, including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said it was “highly likely” there would be a dual vaccination programme for both influenza and Covid-19. British scientists advising the government also said in February that annual vaccines might be needed to deal with new variants, with the government then already stockpiling vaccine supplies in preparation for 2022.

Mr Zahawi also doubled down on the government message that there will be vaccine passports for venues like nightclubs come September, and only proof of vaccination — not of natural immunity or a negative test result — would be accepted.

Outlining the functionality of the NHS’s digital Covid Pass, the vaccine minister said: “This week, after a successful trial, we have rolled out the NHS Covid Pass, which allows people safely and securely to demonstrate their Covid status, whether that is proof of vaccination status, test results or natural immunity.”

“For proprietors of venues and events where large numbers are likely to gather and mix with people from outside their household for prolonged periods, deploying the pass is the right thing to do. The pass has an important role to play in slowing the spread of the virus, so we reserve the right to mandate its use in future,” Mr Zahawi said, confirming that “at the end of September, we plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to those high-risk settings where large crowds gather and interact.”

“As a condition of entry to such venues, people will have to show that they are fully vaccinated, and proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient,” he added.

The remarks come as a rising number of Conservative MPs, the Liberal Democrats, and likely the Labour Party are set to vote against vaccine passports in the House of Commons, just possibly defeating the government in its attempts to introduce domestic vaccine passports in the United Kingdom.

The government has already ordered mandatory vaccines for all care home staff.

Earlier this week, chairman of the Conservative Covid Recovery Group (CRG) Mark Harper MP warned that under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposals, the United Kingdom was “effectively moving to compulsory vaccination”, and more than 40 Tory MPs have said they willl rebel against their government.

Three days after the announcement, Labour stated that it opposed “the use of Covid vaccination status for everyday access to venues and services”, with the Liberal Democrats calling for a “united front against these illiberal and unworkable proposals” and for a “national campaign through the summer to convince the government to change course” before the plans are implemented in late September.

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