day Express has learnt that Sage has tasked several of its advisory groups to look into the scientific, behavioural and ethical feasibility of the passports. These would be documents given to those vaccinated and could allow greater benefits, such as easier access to pubs and restaurants. Insiders confirmed that at least government science groups were looking at the implications of the passport idea.
The news sparked anger among senior medics who argue vaccine passports are unnecessary and also risk creating division and discrimination in society.
Others said the passport proposal could lead to forgeries.
Dr Richard Nicholson, former editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics, said: “This is a worrying proposal because we do not know the long term benefits and harms of these vaccines nor how long protection of Covid-19 is given for after inoculation.”
He said the idea undermined informed consent – a central tenet of UK medicine.
“The fact that people may need a vaccine to get access to venues or jobs would be a dangerous precedent to take as it would totally undermine the principle of informed consent to medical treatment that we have in this country.”
He added: “There is a danger of such passports rapidly being forged on the black market.”
Robert Dingwall, a professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, who advises the government on pandemic planning said: “This is all driven by fear. By the time you have vaccinated the 14 million at risk of serious illness or death from coronavirus you are left with a large section of the population which is not at particular risk.
“What is the point of a vaccine passport for these people? This would create a whole raft of unnecessary and expensive bureaucracy and it would be discriminating and stigmatising.
“If there are people in the high risk group who decide they do not want to take the jab then that is their decision to take that risk.
“We do not have influenza passports and we don’t propose that people cannot get access to bars and restaurants and even the job market if they are not vaccinated against the flu.
“If you have to walk into a bar and show your covid-19 vaccination status why not add HIV, hepatitis and any other medical status?”
Last week, Nadhim Zahawi, the newly appointed Vaccine Minister, indicated that customers who turn down the inoculation could be refused entry to pubs.
He said: “We are looking at the technology.
“And, of course, a way of people being able to inform their GP that they have been vaccinated.
“But, also, I think you’ll probably find that restaurants and bars and cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system – as they have done with the (test and trace) app.”
But 24 hours later Michael Gove said this was not the plan.
He said: “I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports and I don’t know anyone else in government [who is].”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have no plans to introduce immunity passports.
“While we know this vaccine protects individuals, we don’t yet know if it prevents onward transmission. We will be carefully monitoring this in the coming months.”