Everything you need to know about Covid vaccine passports

The Government is pressing ahead with mandatory coronavirus vaccine passports for some events in England as it activates “Plan B” due to the spread of the omicron variant.

From Wednesday, December 15, the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS App will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather.

These include unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees.

The smartphone passes, which show whether a person has had a vaccine or a negative test, have already been used for entry into some large events and in overseas travel since vaccines have been widely available.

Boris Johnson set out the measures in a press conference on Wednesday, when he also confirmed that mandatory mask wearing would be extended to public places including cinemas and theatres from Friday.

Here is everything you need to know about downloading and using the NHS Covid Pass.

What is a vaccine passport?

A vaccine passport should allow those who have had two jabs to travel more easily or access large events. Some countries have made having proof of a vaccine or a recent test a prerequisite for entry.

The NHS app also now allows those who have received a third dose or booster to demonstrate their status, with countries such as Israel, Austria and Croatia requiring visitors to have had a dose within a time period.

In the UK, you can also get a domestic Covid pass by having a test, or if you have had coronavirus in the last 180 days.

The UK’s Covid vaccine pass is part of the official NHS app – not the separate NHS Covid-19 contact tracing app. 

The NHS Covid pass can also be stored in the Apple or Google Wallet.

How do I download the NHS app?

The official NHS app is available to download for most smartphones. The app you’ll need to download to access the vaccine passport scheme is simply called “NHS App”. 

The contact tracing app, called NHS COVID 19, is separate and will not include vaccine passports.

Open your App Store if using an iPhone, or the Google Play Store on an Android phone. Search for “NHS App” and it should be the top result.

The app is compatible with most Android smartphones. Any device running Android 5.0 and higher will be able to download and use it.

What do you need for a Covid pass?

The following Covid tests or vaccines are accepted to give users a complete Covid pass.

  • Two doses of the Moderna, AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine, or one dose of the Janssen vaccine in England. The vaccines must be in use in the UK. The pass will be ready shortly after your final dose of the vaccine.
  • A report of a positive PCR test within the last six months – valid for 180 days after you’ve finished self-isolating.
  • For domestic events only: A negative PCR or lateral flow test within 48 hours, which can activate as soon as you complete the test. This test needs to be registered online using the Register My Test Result service. A response may take up to two hours.

What about booster jabs?

For travel abroad, the NHS app can also demonstrate proof of a booster or third dose, and show up automatically if a vaccine record has been entered.

How does the app work?

The NHS app works by allowing people to register details such as their name, postcode and NHS number to link the app with their health record held by their GP.

This information is then shown in the app once people have logged into it, allowing them to see their vaccination record as well as other medical information such as allergies and appointment records.

To find your vaccination status in the app, users can click the tab “your health” or click on the service “get your NHS Covid pass”. 

You will then be presented with a digital barcode, which can be presented at an event or when you travel for confirmation. 

This can be downloaded as a PDF, or you can ask for it to be sent to your email address. You can also add it to Apple or Google Wallet, meaning it is stored within the Apple Pay or Google Pay section of your phone. To do this, select your Covid Pass and click “Add to Apple Wallet” or “Google – save to phone”.

Are NHS vaccine passports accepted abroad?

Many countries, including the United States, those in the European Union, and countries such as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Israel, accept the NHS Covid pass for travel. It is accepted in more than 80 countries across the world.

You should check the entry requirements of individual countries on the Government website for the latest information.

Will the app be required to enter places like pubs, offices and venues?

There have been concerns that widespread introduction of Covid passes in pubs and offices would be discriminatory and the Government has not advised it.

However, it has strongly encouraged large venues such as theatres and stadiums to demand the pass, and many have complied, meaning Covid passes have become a fact of life despite not being required.

Several ministers have previously stated that they are uneasy about the implications for privacy and individual freedoms.

How much of my personal data will be shared with the app?

Using the NHS app requires a certain amount of personal data. This can include your name, phone number, post code, although not your exact location, and email address. You can also enable other features such as facial recognition for logging into the app. 

Will I be able to turn location tracking off?

The app will not need to track your exact location. It will simply show a form confirming your vaccine status. The current NHS app does use location services data. 

What if I do not have a smartphone?

If you don’t have a smartphone, the Government can send you a letter with your vaccine status on it. You can call 119 to speak to the NHS who can then send you an official note. This will take at least five working days.

What about children?

Individuals under 18 are generally not required to show their Covid status, although those aged over 16 may need to do so for travel by providing a negative test result.

How do vaccine passports work in other countries?

Israel has given inoculated citizens a Green Pass so they can use gyms and hotels. The system allows citizens who have been vaccinated, recently recovered from the virus or who have had a recent negative test to congregate in venues that have been closed for months such as theatres and nightclubs.

Can I get an NHS Covid Pass if I have been vaccinated abroad?

In most cases, no.

Many vaccines administered in foreign countries or at overseas vaccine centres will not work if you upload them to the app. Ministers promised in July to fix this issue, but many people are still complaining the app does not work for them.

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