Even as the government seeks to increase the number of people who have received a booster jab against Covid-19, the NHS has chosen not to include the additional vaccination on travellers’ records.
With some countries putting limits on the validity of vaccinations, the decision could wreck plans for British travellers over the winter.
The NHS Covid pass system offers travellers proof – increasingly accepted abroad – that they have completed a course of vaccinations.
Most nations are satisfied with proof of having completed a two-jab course of AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer.
But some countries are putting time limits on the efficacy of the vaccines.
Austria was believed to be first. Initially the government in Vienna imposed a 270-day limit after the second dose of a double-shot vaccination. That has now been extended to 360 days – just short of a year.
People who were among the first to receive their NHS jabs will reach the 360-day deadline early in the New Year.
The 360-day Austrian rule applies also to any booster jab. Someone who had a booster on, say, 5 September 2021, would be covered until the end of August 2022.
But as boosters are not currently recorded in the NHS Covid Pass, there appears no easy way for a traveller to prove they have had the additional vaccination.
Israel has even tougher rules. The country allows visits only if they are due to end no more than 180 days after the second dose.
Travellers are welcome if they have “received a booster dose and at least 14 days have passed by the day of entry into Israel,” the rules state.
As a result, many triple-jabbed British travellers face being excluded – though people who have proof of recovery from Covid within the previous 190 days will be allowed in .
The Foreign Office links to the Israeli website in its online travel advice, and specifically warns prospective visitors to Austria about the limitations.
But the decision not to register booster jabs on the NHS Covid pass is taken by another branch of government, the Department of Health.
A London pharmacist, who did not want to be named, said the source of the problem was that the NHS certification scheme was not designed with the possibility of a booster in mind.
“It is perfectly good at providing evidence of first and second jabs, but while our systems show the boosters they don’t appear on patients’ records,” he said.
The Department of Health said that the position is under review.
Meanwhile, every day that passes without a change increase the number of prospective travellers who face being excluded.
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