By Lina Saigol
Restaurants, cinemas and even sporting venues may turn customers away if they have not had a COVID-19 vaccine, the U.K. government’s new vaccine minister has suggested.
Nadhim Zahawi, who was appointed on Saturday as a new health minister to oversee the rollout of a COVID vaccine in England, once one has been approved for use, said getting vaccinated would be voluntary.
But he said that the National Health Service Test and Trace mobile-phone app — used for contact tracing — may include a person’s vaccine status, which businesses could also use. “We are looking at the technology. And, of course, a way of people being able to inform their GP [general practitioner] that they have been vaccinated,” Zahawi told the BBC.
“But also I think you’d probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system as they’ve done with the app,” he said, adding, “I think that in many ways the pressure will come from both ways, from service providers who’ll say, ‘Look, demonstrate to us that you have been vaccinated.’ “
Zahawi also said social-media platforms including those run by Alphabet unit Google /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL +0.45% , Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +0.60% and Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +1.99% should do more to fact-check opposing views of vaccines.
On Tuesday, cabinet office minister Michael Gove stressed that the government is not planning to issue “vaccine passports” to people who have been inoculated.
“No, that’s not being planned,” Gove told Sky News , adding that the “most important thing to do is make sure we vaccinate as many people as possible.”
NHS bosses are also considering the launch of a new campaign featuring celebrities and influencers to help persuade the public to get a coronavirus shot once it becomes available, according to a report in the Guardian .
Gove’s comments come as hopes grow that the U.K. could become the first country in the world to approve and roll out a COVID-19 vaccine , with the country’s medical regulator likely to give approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate “within days.”
The experimental vaccine being developed by German biotech BioNTech /zigman2/quotes/214419716/composite BNTX +2.85% and drug manufacturer Pfizer /zigman2/quotes/202877789/composite PFE +0.19% could be delivered hours after receiving approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, with the first jabs set to take place as soon as Dec. 7.
The U.K. has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was shown to have an efficacy rate of 95% in people over 65 years in a Phase 3 trial. It has also increased its order for a vaccine developed by U.S. biotech Moderna /zigman2/quotes/205619834/composite MRNA -1.47% from 5 million to 7 million doses, enough for 3.5 million people .
So-called immunity passports have been suggested as a potential route of returning to normality. Last week, the boss of Australian airline Qantas /zigman2/quotes/205534063/delayed AU:QAN -1.03% said in an interview with Australia’s Nine Network that the carrier was looking at changing its terms and conditions for international travelers, to ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft.
Global aviation trade body the International Air Transport Association is in the final development phase of a digital health pass to help passengers navigate COVID-19 travel restrictions and share test and vaccine certificates with airlines and governments. The IATA Travel Pass is expected to come to market in coming months.
United Airlines /zigman2/quotes/205037281/composite UAL -1.06% has introduced a COVID testing trial, with the first volunteers arriving at Heathrow on Nov. 17 on flight UA14 from Newark Liberty International Airport. The same month, American Airlines /zigman2/quotes/209207041/composite AAL -0.06% and British Airways /zigman2/quotes/208070069/delayed UK:IAG -3.41% launched a coronavirus testing trial to help persuade the U.S. and U.K. governments that testing can remove the need for passengers to quarantine on arrival.