There has been much discussion in the media around the potential for vaccination passports that permit those who have had both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to access services. In the UK, there has yet to be any confirmation of such documents or evidence being required, but that’s not to say that they will not exist in the future.

International travel still requires privately bought tests from officially recognised suppliers such as medicspot.co.uk to prove an individual’s current viral status and to, eventually, release them from quarantine upon their return to the UK. But how does an individual’s vaccination status work? Let’s drill down to the detail.

What types of coronavirus vaccination are there?

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In the UK at present, there are four types of vaccination against Covid-19 for adults aged over 18: Astra Zeneca; Pfizer; Moderna; and Johnson & Johnson. Astra Zeneca, Pfizer and Moderna all require two separate injections administered no further than 12 weeks apart, while Johnson & Johnson is a single ‘jab’ vaccination. No one vaccine is recommended over another (and usually individuals are not given a choice in which they receive) but due to ongoing safety concerns in younger people, the Astra Zeneca vaccination is no longer offered to anyone under the age of 40.

The country’s vaccination roll-out was done in a phased manner, with those considered vulnerable offered the vaccine first before being rolled out using age brackets. In June 2021, everyone aged over 18 was able to access at least their first vaccination injection entirely free of charge, supplied by the NHS.

Elsewhere in the world, there are other providers of authorised vaccinations. A vaccination’s approved status is dependent on individual country and territory’s medical approval bodies.

Do any countries require proof of vaccination?

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It is not uncommon to have to prove medical vaccination status in order to gain entry to a country. There are many countries that require proof of vaccination against malaria, yellow fever and polio, among other illnesses. Since 2021, however, some countries have opened their borders only to travellers who are partly or fully vaccinated, while others allow for entry without quarantine for those inoculated. Each country and territory has its own restrictions and regulations, and the best place to keep up-to-date with such information is the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO ) website.

In the EU, a digital vaccination passport has been rolled out across the bloc. Known as the Digital Covid Certificate, it is stored on a smartphone app and can display an individual’s vaccination status, latest Covid-19 test results and whether a person has had the virus already. If completed properly with a full vaccination and negative test result, travellers are free to move around the Union without any enforced quarantine or isolation periods.

In Israel, a ‘Green Pass’ is available for those who are able to prove either vaccination or recovery (antibody) status to permit access to gyms, hotels and spas, while in Demark a smartphone ‘Coronapas’ app provides evidence of negative results, antibodies and/or vaccination status to allow individuals access to restaurants, bars and non-essential services. Both countries have already managed to a third wave of Covid-19 infection due to their stringent controls and are good examples of the success of vigorous public safety management.

How do you prove your vaccination status?

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Although most people in the UK are issued with an appointment card when they have their coronavirus vaccine, this is not considered sufficient formal proof for anywhere that requires evidence. Instead, the NHS App displays an individual’s vaccine status and this is used as a way of presenting an edited version of a medical record for admittance into test events and trials.

Exactly what each country requires in terms of proof where it must be provided varies. Travellers should contact their local consulate or embassy, or their travel agent for further information before departure internationally.

Should a signed doctor’s certificate be required, or a verified medical record, this can be requested directly from the NHS GP Surgery you are registered with, but it may involve a fee and will not be considered an administration priority if the proposed travel is non-essential.

What happens if I’m medically unable to have a covid vaccine?

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There are some people who will be medically exempt from having the vaccine due to allergies or medical conditions. In these cases, specific individual advice should be sought from a GP or allergy specialist — sometimes only certain vaccines might be considered unsuitable for someone with a specific allergy, so arrangements can be made for the individual to receive an alternate type.

When no vaccination can be provided, further information should be sought from the destination’s consulate or embassy. In some cases, an exemption can be made with verified documentation explaining and proving the medical reason for no inoculation having been administered.

If an individual has simply chosen not to receive the vaccine but is of an age where it is required, no such exemption can be made. They are free to either book their vaccination or not to travel.

Are vaccination passports likely to become more popular, or less?

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As Covid-19 continues to mutate and new strains emerge, it is clear that the risk from the virus is only negated by sufficient safety measures including a comprehensive vaccination programme. While the future cannot be predicted, it is likely that more countries will want to open their borders to boost tourism and other business after such a long period of adversity. However, as vaccination rates rise and many countries see an uptake in inoculation levels, it is likely that in order to protect their own populations, they will also insist on travellers being vaccinated.

Long-term, it is difficult to say what the impact of vaccination programmes will be. It may be that, like yellow fever and malaria, countries simply require a blanket programme of travellers to be vaccinated before they permit them entry, but equally it may work out that as more of the world’s population are vaccinated, herd immunity is enacted.

One thing is sure for now — and that’s if you can get vaccinated, you should. Across the UK many towns and cities now have walk-in vaccination centres and for those who aren’t, appointments can be booked. We all have a duty to help get society up and running again, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.