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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Covid passports failed to persuade Scots to get vaccinated, says Nicola Sturgeon’s adviser

Her government is also examining allowing affected premises to accept evidence of a negative test result instead of a vaccine passport from customers who had not been double vaccinated.

However, a 70-page Scottish Government evidence paper published late on Friday admitted that the scheme had only led to an extremely small rise in young Scots getting their shots, despite that being Ms Sturgeon’s main justification for the policy.

It concluded that the vaccination uptake among young people aged 18 to 29 in Scotland between September 1 – when the scheme was announced – and November 16 was “similar” to that in England, where passports have not been introduced.

The report also admitted that extending the scheme to other hospitality and leisure premises, as Ms Sturgeon proposes, would cost businesses to implement.

However, the paper then pivoted away from increasing vaccination rates as the Scottish Government’s reason for the scheme, claiming that the country is facing a choice between extending it and lockdown-style restrictions.

In another new justification, it argued that extending it to other premises “may show the public that the pandemic is ‘still with us’, despite the lifting of most major restrictions at the end of the summer”.

Adding fuel to vaccine-sceptics’ fire

Prof Reicher told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sunday Show that passports had triggered an “immediate surge” in vaccination in France and Austria because they had a section of their populations who had not been jabbed despite having “nothing against vaccines”.

“But the problem is that for people who are sceptical, for people who think vaccines are about controlling you, then actually they become more negative,” said the academic, who is also a member of Sage’s sub-committee advising UK ministers on behavioural science.

“So you create a larger pool of people who become defiant and resistant and, what’s more, you give traction to those arguments of political bodies who are saying vaccines are about controlling you.”

He concluded: “And when you look at the evidence in Scotland, there’s actually absolutely no evidence that vaccine passports increased the rate of take-up. It’s exactly the same as in England.”

Passports will ‘contribute positively’ to curbing infections

Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Tories, said: “Where’s the evidence that these vaccine passports actually work? Their own 70-page document can’t tell us and I think this is absolutely wrong to be putting this added pressure and burden onto businesses at such short notice.”

However, Prof Rowland Kao, the chairman of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh, said that vaccine passports would “contribute positively” to curbing infections over the winter if applied to a wider range of venues.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As the Deputy First Minister has made clear, the situation around the pandemic is serious, so we are being open about all the options available to us that may be required to protect the public.

“No decisions have been made and parliament will be informed if and when any decisions are reached. We continue to liaise closely with stakeholders including the hospitality sector.”

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