Coronavirus latest news: Virus ‘back under control’ after lockdown, Matt Hancock says

Professor Ilan Kelman, professor of disasters and health at University College London, said: “Vaccine passports or similar are not a new idea. One of the many initiatives which successfully eradicated smallpox was the requirement for a vaccination in order to travel.

“Today, when travelling from and to places at risk of yellow fever, proof of vaccination is sometimes required. To enter some countries, proof of a polio vaccination is still needed.

“One difference here is proof of vaccination for daily, local activities–a debate which is long-standing such as mandatory MMR vaccinations to attend school. This issue was reinvigorated last year after a measles outbreak at London schools and some places do have mandatory measles vaccinations for children attending school.

“A proviso is if it turns out that there might be some certified medical reasons for being unable to take the vaccine. A system of verifiable exceptions would be needed. As the minister indicates, for people who choose not to take a vaccine, then they can also choose not to participate in activities which demand it.”

Dr Alexander Edwards, associate professor in biomedical technology at the University of Reading, said:

 “Evidence of vaccination is already required for certain diseases and situations. Proof of yellow fever vaccination is essential to travel from certain parts of the world where this virus is present, to places without yellow fever. In workplaces where human blood is handled (e.g. hospitals, labs) staff usually need proof of hepatitis B vaccination for their own safety- this is normal occupational health.

 “However we have a lot more evidence about these other diseases, and so it is hard to see how we could bring in something similar for Covid-19 any time soon. For example, although we now have some exciting data showing that people can be protected from infection, we don’t have enough data yet to know exactly how well the new vaccines prevent spread. Nor can we yet know how long protection lasts – the clinical trials simply haven’t had enough time to measure this.”