Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for contacting me about Coronavirus vaccine passports.
I have to say that the term ‘vaccine passport’ is a broad one and can often be misleading.
Most vaccine passports in a domestic setting display proof of vaccination, in this instance against the Coronavirus. However, some of them do also display recent test results, meaning that those who are unable – or unwilling – to receive the vaccine are able to show ‘evidence’ that they are not currently infected with the Coronavirus to gain entry to restricted events that way.
International vaccine passports are nothing new. It has been compulsory for many years for people to provide proof of vaccination against a number of tropical diseases when they travel to some countries around the world.
In light of the Omicron variant, the government introduced so-called ‘Plan B restrictions’ – new guidance around mandatory face masks, working from home, and the use of the NHS COVID Pass to enter nightclubs and other venues in England – which I voted in favour of at the time. These restrictions were lifted on 27th January 2022.
Since the start of this debate, the Labour Party’s position has always been that people should have the option to present a negative test result as an alternative to a full vaccination pass, as people are able to using the NHS COVID Pass app. Certainly we in the Labour Party have never been of the view that Coronavirus vaccine passports should be required for people to access essential services, such as doctors, dentists, supermarkets, and other essential retailers.
On the issue of ‘mandatory vaccinations’, I want to make it clear that I believe that everybody has the right to bodily autonomy and whether or not a person decides to take the Coronavirus vaccine should be a personal choice.
At the same time, vaccination against particular diseases can be a requirement of employment – however, when it comes to mandatory vaccines for NHS workers, this is an issue that is being looked at again. The government launched its intention to remove the requirement for NHS workers and care home staff to be vaccinated at the end of January, subject to a public consultation, which Labour does not oppose – this is because circumstances have changed. The Omicron variant is less severe than the Delta variant which came before it, and there is now a greater uptake of the vaccine amongst NHS staff. It is right that we consider this issue again.
I hope that this email has summarised my views on these important issues, although we do disagree. Thank you again for getting in touch with me. You are welcome to contact me again if you have any further matters you would like to raise with me.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Attorney General