Covid app could start recording whether user has had vaccine, Dido Harding suggests

Advocates of immunity passports have suggested they could allow people to enjoy greater freedom

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 30 November 2020 13:22 GMT
Test and Trace boss Baroness Dido Harding
Test and Trace boss Baroness Dido Harding (AFP via Getty Images)

The government’s Test and Trace mobile app could be used to record test results and whether or not an individual has received a jab of a Covid-19 vaccine, Dido Harding has suggested.

Raising the prospect of digital certificates, the boss of Test and Trace said she hoped to be able to create a “single record” for vaccines and those self-administering tests at home.

Advocates of so-called immunity passports have suggested they could reduce the need for stringent restrictions and allow people to enjoy greater freedoms, including eliminating the need to quarantine after international travel.

In comments reported by The Times, Baroness Harding told an event hosted by the Health Service Journal said: “We are working very closely with the vaccine team to make sure that as we build tools that will enable people to be testing themselves a home and recording the results of their tests that we build an integrated data architecture.”

She added that her hope was “in the future to be able to have a single record as a citizen of your test results and whether you’ve been vaccinated”.

When she was appointed to the role earlier this year, the government said Baroness Harding will lead on the new Covid-19 app, swab and antibody testing, contact tracing “as well as immunity certification”.

Throughout the pandemic, ministers have hinted that a form of immunity passports could be used to allow greater freedoms, and health secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this year they could allow a return to “normal life”.

Boris Johnson is yet to outline any proposals for such a scheme, but the Sunday Telegraph added that the Department for Transport is also exploring the possibility of “vaccine stamps” to allow those who have been inoculated against coronavirus to travel freely from next summer.

However, the organisation Privacy International warned in the summer that the social risks of immunity passports are “great” and could serve “as a route to discrimination and exclusion, particularly if the powers to view these passports falls on people’s employers, or the police”.

The comments from Baroness Harding come after the government’s hopes of a successful vaccine were boosted in recent weeks, and reports the UK is set to approve one developed by BioNTech and Pfizer within a matter of days.

The UK medicine’s regulator – the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – is also assessing the safety of a second vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

Over the weekend, No 10 also announced that Boris Johnson had appointed Conservative Nadhim Zahawi as vaccine minister, meaning the MP will oversee the the considerable strategic task of rolling the vaccine out across the country.

The Independent has contacted the Department of Health and Social Care for comment.

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