Vaccine passports could create 'two-tier society'

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned that introducing Covid status certificates to help reopen society risks discriminating against some groups.

While the independent commission says that certificates proving who is vaccinated could help to ease restrictions ‘in principle’, it stressed that it also risks creating a ‘two-tier society’ whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights. It also added that blanket mandatory vaccination policies are likely to be unlawful.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission says such passport policies could discriminate against marginalised groups where take-up of the vaccine is lower, as well as the small number of people who cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons.  Therefore people from some ethnic minority groups, migrants and people from lower socio-economic groups could face further exclusion on activities such as travelling, going to work, enjoying social activities or accessing essential services.

Baroness Kishwer Falkner, chair of the EHRC, said if the certificates are introduced, they must be time-limited and regularly reviewed by Parliament to ensure they are proportionate. She said those who cannot take the vaccine must have easy access to exemption documentation. They include people with severe allergies to ingredients in the vaccine, while pregnant women cannot routinely by offered Covid vaccines.

Ministers have suggested that Covid status certificates would be introduced for a limited time only, and that they would allow people to record whether they had been vaccinated, recently tested negative or had natural immunity from a confirmed infection in the last six months.

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