Leitch: Covid vaccine passport system likely in future

Scotland's national clinical director says vaccine passports are an 'interesting concept' likely in the future.

A coronavirus vaccine passport system is likely to be introduced in future, Scotland’s national clinical director has said, though he urged caution around the level of protection jabs offer.

Professor Jason Leitch said vaccine passports are an “interesting concept”, after former prime minister Tony Blair called for the UK to use its G7 leadership to introduce such a scheme globally.

In evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 Committee on Thursday, Prof Leitch also said coronavirus is likely to be present in some sort of “endemic” form for years to come.

Asked about Mr Blair’s proposal for a global system to verify vaccinated individuals, Prof Leitch said: “I agree it is an interesting concept, the WHO (World Health Organisation) have begun to look at it.”

He stressed the latest scientific evidence suggests vaccination is not a “binary” state, but there is precedent for travel restrictions based on vaccination – including yellow fever certificates.

Prof Leitch said: “I think we will probably move towards that. I haven’t seen the exact details of what Mr Blair’s think tank have said but I imagine it’s relatively sensible, it’s about doing it globally rather than just an individual region of the world.”

Prof Leitch was also asked how long people are likely to have to live with coronavirus.

Saying the answer is “really difficult”, he added early data suggests the vaccine is working to reduce mortality, and it is likely to cut transmission.

He said: “The difficult news about how we live with it is I don’t know what the virus is going to do.

“I don’t know if it’s going to ‘vaccine escape’ – so I don’t know if at some point the vaccine is not going to be as reliable and we’re going to have to chase it like we do with flu.

“I don’t know what the rest of the world is going to do and I don’t know how populations are going to behave.

“We will probably have to live with this virus in an endemic way in some form and we just don’t know what that looks like.

“We do that with flu just now, there is no science that suggests this virus is suddenly going to disappear or suddenly get fed up and die.

“It looks as though we will live with Covid in some form, probably with routine vaccination over time, for years to come.”