Coronavirus “immunity certificates” could be issued to people after taking a vaccine or getting the illness, the government’s scientific advisers have said.
A paper published by a committee of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said certification was “likely to be possible” in a move that would exempt people from government-imposed restrictions to halt the spread of Covid-19.
Certificates or “immunity passports” have been latched on by governments across the world as a way to reopen society, but UK ministers have aired mixed messages on whether they will be introduced.
The paper – titled ‘Immunity to SARS-CoV-2 and the concept of an Immunity Certificate’ and published on Friday – was produced by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group and considered by Sage on November 19.
It considered the “new context” created by the level of immunity among people who have been infected in early pandemic waves, and the rapid development of vaccines, and whether there was the prospect of “an exemption from current non-pharmaceutical interventions”.
The researchers had “high confidence” that people would become immune to the virus after catching it once or getting vaccinated, despite acknowledging that the length of immunity provided by either is currently not known.
They said a “significant number of people who have been infected ... may have some ‘immunity’ that protects them during subsequent exposure”.
And the trials of coronavirus vaccines “suggest that a high degree of immunity to Covid-19 disease can be obtained, at least in the short-term”.
The experts concluded: “Some form of Covid-19 immunity certification is likely to be possible but further data and considerations are needed before a recommendation can be made.”
In May, health secretary Matt Hancock said the government was “looking at an immunity certificate — how people who have had the disease, have got the antibodies and therefore have the immunity, can show that and so get back, as much as possible, to normal life”.
But this week fellow cabinet minister Michael Gove denied that “immunity certificates” would be needed to enter pubs, despite another ministerial colleague saying this might be the case.