Covid vaccine passports offer the most logical route back to normality – Stephen Jardine

In a doctor’s surgery near Holyrood, I got my vaccine and a little leaflet explaining possible side-effects. More importantly, I also got a piece of paper fixed to my passport that certified I’d received a yellow fever inoculation and was fit to travel around Africa.

Inevitably, I lost it on the journey leading to severe palpitations, especially when a burly Rwandan border guard outlined my predicament.

“No certificate, no travel,” he said with a pitying look normally reserved for gap-year students looking for free wi-fi. Thankfully it turned up in a bag moments later and such was the trauma of separation, I think it still lurks in a drawer somewhere.

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Yellow fever isn’t the only vaccine required for travel to some countries. Meningitis, typhoid and hepatitis A and B are all demanded by certain nations as conditions of entry.

We accept that without argument so why are we so squeamish about the idea of Covid passports here?

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After the first anniversary of the lockdown, this is a good time to take stock. The country has been ravaged by a virus we’d barely heard of 12 months ago.

Over 126,000 people have died from it. My own father-in-law was one of them. The economy has been ransacked and many believe the worst knock-on effects for employment and mental health are still to come. But we have the vaccine.

Covid vaccine passports could help life return to something much closer to normal (Picture: Shutterstock)

Twelve months ago, scientists didn’t even know if that was possible but thanks to incredible individuals who deserve the Nobel Prize for Medicine, science is offering us a way out of this nightmare.

But not everyone wants to take it. For some there are valid medical reasons. For others, too much time on Facebook spent listening to a heady mix of cranks and snake-oil salesmen has left them bereft of the common sense required to see the salvation the vaccine offers.

If social media had been around to spook the gullible back then, would we have the freedom we now enjoy from smallpox, whooping cough and diptheria? Probably not.

The vaccine should not be mandatory. That would be a breach of our individual freedom to decide what happens to our own body. But choosing not to take the scientific escape route does come with consequences. We can’t all continue to be locked up because Piers Corbyn has a phone and access to Twitter and YouTube.

As society unlocks and the economy staggers to it’s feet, vaccine certification is the logical route back to normality.

From being opposed last year, Boris Johnson now seems to be coming round to the idea. “I do think that the basic concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us,” he said this week.

With everyone willing due to be vaccinated by the end of the summer, the Prime Minister is also said to be looking at this as the key to dropping social distancing in pubs to allow them to trade profitably.

The same approach could be applied to nightclubs, cinemas and any mass events where people gather together.

As a nation we rightly guard our individual liberty but we also have responsibilities to each other. Those who choose not to take the vaccine are free to do so but they can’t expect the rest of us to sacrifice our freedoms for them.

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