Covid: Vaccine passports 'will not be going ahead' in England, Health Secretary Sajid Javid says

ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports on the decision to scrap Covid vaccine passport plans to gain entry to nightclubs and large venues

The health secretary has said plans for Covid-19 vaccine passports to gain access to nightclubs and other crowded venues in England "will not be going ahead".

Plans had been announced that members of the public would be required to show proof they have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine in order to gain entry to large-scale events, but in a U-turn on Sunday, following a backlash from Tory MPs, Sajid Javid said the idea had been scrapped.

He told BBC's The Andrew Marr Show: "I've never liked the idea of saying to people you must show your papers or something to do what is just an everyday activity, but we were right to properly look at it.

"We've looked at it properly and whilst we should keep it in reserve as a potential option, I'm pleased to say that we will not be going ahead with plans for vaccine passports."

Around half an hour earlier, Sajid Javid had said that no decision had been made on vaccine passports. Credit: PA

The announcement came shortly after the minister had appeared on Sky News and told host Trevor Phillips a final decision had yet to be made.

Asked about the policy, Mr Javid had said: "We have been looking at that. We've been open about that. Instinctively I don't like the idea at all of people having to, let's say, present papers to do basic things.

"So if we do that, it has to be something that is looked at very carefully and something that we believe that has to be done with no alternative.

"With the vaccination rates rising - for example with 16 and 17-year-olds we only started just last month, now over 50% of 16 and 17-year-olds are already vaccinated - I think we need to take that into account and make a final decision, but I hope we can avoid it."

He added: "I am not here today to rule that out. We haven't made a final decision as a government."

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth tells ITV News "other measures" need to be implemented to protect the public

Vaccine passports had caused growing disquiet among Tory ranks, as well as facing opposition from opposition parties and industry figures.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi faced a fierce backlash when he defended the policy in the Commons on Wednesday, with Tory MPs accusing the government of picking an "unnecessary fight" with them.

He said: "It is not something... we do lightly, it is something to allow us to transition this virus from pandemic to endemic status."

The decision means Covid measures in England again deviate from those in Scotland, where a motion on their introduction was passed in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, while a decision is expected in Wales next week.

Stormont ministers have yet to reach an official position on using vaccine access passports within Northern Ireland.

Speaking on Sky News, Sajid Javid also said he expects the Covid-19 booster vaccination programme will begin later this month.

He said is still awaiting final advice from experts, but believed the programme would begin "on schedule this month".

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs are safe to use as boosters, but the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has yet to give its advice to ministers.

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Mr Javid said the JCVI "gave me interim advice a month or so ago where they supported this, but they said they wanted to do some further work. We have given them the time to do that work.

“But I believe we will be able to start our booster programme, subject to their final advice, on schedule this month.”

However, Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, whose team developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, said on Friday that he believes the priority should be to donate vaccines to countries where people are still awaiting a first dose.

His views have been echoed by his Oxford colleague Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, who helped design the vaccine, and who said booster jabs may not be needed by everyone.

Earlier this month, it was announced people aged 12 and over who have a severely weakened immune system will be offered a third coronavirus vaccine.

In the coming days, Boris Johnson is expected to repeal parts of the Coronavirus Act as he sets out the government’s plan to tackle Covid-19 over the autumn and winter at a news conference.

The plan is expected to focus on vaccinations, with the prime minister reluctant to impose further lockdowns.

The powers which are thought to no longer be necessary and are expected to be repealed under the Coronavirus Act include:

  • Allowing the closing down of the economy

  • The imposing of restrictions on events and gatherings

  • The power to temporarily close or restrict access to school

  • Powers to detain infectious people.