NI vaccine passports for travel expected in July, says CMO Dr Michael McBride

Northern Ireland’s version of vaccine passports to allow travel abroad should be announced in July, Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride has said.

Wednesday, 26th May 2021, 5:43 pm
Airport. Vaccine passports could be necessary for international travel
Airport. Vaccine passports could be necessary for international travel

This comes as Health Minister Robin Swann suggested the coronavirus vaccine roll-ut will be expanded to cover the 18-24 year-old age category imminently — the last priority grouping in Northern Ireland who remain unable to book an appointment for their jabs.

Dr McBride, meanwhile, revealed that the vaccine passes will initially use a written format before moving to a “digital solution”.

Possible uses for the so-called passports — other than travel — has yet to be decided.

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Speaking during a briefing with members of the press on Wednesday afternoon, the top medic was asked about the passports in relation to travel.

“Things are developing very quickly in that space,” he said. “It was only last week that there was agreement in terms of the format for those passports. Initially those will be in a written format in some parts of the UK, moving then into a digital solution for that — particularly for international travel.”

He continued: “It’s not yet been decided in policy terms in what circumstances, other than travel, they might be used because they may be used in other circumstances. In Israel, obviously, they have their green cards scheme which has been highly effective there.”

On the format to be used in Northern Ireland, he suggested work is ongoing to prevent possible fraud: “We are likely to have a paper, verified process in place and we are working to do that as soon as we possibly can. As you can imagine, the risk of counterfeit and fraud is significant. There will be a format for these which will be verifiable.

“We hope to be in a position to announce that some time in July.”

Dr McBride also appealed to potential holidaymakers not to contact their GP or the Health and Social Care Board seeking a vaccine pass until an announcement is made.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister has hailed the progress of the vaccination programme.

“The successful roll-out of our vaccination programme continues, with over 70% of our adult population having now received their first dose and over 40% fully vaccinated,” he said.

“We need to maintain this momentum and I plan to announce the programme extension’s to 18-24 year olds in the very near future.”

He continued: “Alongside vaccination, contact-tracing, testing and self-isolation following a positive test remain the cornerstones of our ongoing public health response,” he said.

“I would again appeal to the public to work with us and keep playing their part in preventing the spread of the virus.”

The Minister added: “That’s how we keep each other safe and protect the hard-won progress we have achieved.”