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16 Dec, 2020 14:38

Ireland’s health minister confirms plans for Covid vaccine ‘certificates’ & suggests people who refuse jab could face restrictions

Ireland’s health minister confirms plans for Covid vaccine ‘certificates’ & suggests people who refuse jab could face restrictions

Ireland intends to issue Covid-19 vaccine certificates which could potentially become required ID for certain activities, and the country’s vaccination program could begin by year’s end, health minister Stephen Donnelly has said. 

Vaccine certificates are part of the country’s “implementation plan” as it prepares to launch a nationwide inoculation drive, Donnelly told public broadcaster RTE. However, the form that the certificate will take, and how it will ultimately be used, is still under consideration. 

Noting that airlines are discussing the adoption of a mandatory Covid-19 ‘passport’ for international travelers, the health minister predicted that the government-issued certificates would “evolve” as more becomes known about the efficacy of coronavirus jabs. 

“If it were the case that there was a huge impact on trying to massively reduce transmissibility, then we can think about using vaccine certs in a particular way,” he said.

Donnelly also explained that it was still unclear whether the certificate would be digital or paper-based. He told RTE the document could resemble a card-sized driver’s license, or could be issued as a “digital certificate that you might have to submit to an airline before being able to book a flight.”

He added that if vaccine certificates become required to “gain access to certain things,” then there would likely be “something on a statutory footing with some enforceability behind it" to prevent forgeries, although he said there were currently no plans to sniff out and prosecute fake certificates.

The comments seem to be at odds with remarks made by the head of the Government’s vaccination taskforce, Brian MacCraith, who said during a press briefing on Tuesday that the document would be “a vaccination certificate of proof of vaccination, nothing else.” MacCraith also said there were discussions among EU member states about the introduction of a standardized, “single model” certificate.  

Ireland’s vaccination program could begin before the end of the year if the European Medicines Agency clears the Pfizer vaccine by next week.

Donnelly’s remarks echo similar comments made by Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott, who was more explicit about her own government’s intentions regarding vaccine certificates. Last week, Elliot explained that the coronavirus vaccine won’t be mandatory, but said those who refuse it could be deprived of certain freedoms, such as the right to travel. 

The UK government, on the other hand, has insisted that it currently has no plans to issue any kind of vaccine ‘passport’, although the NHS will be providing cards listing details about administered Covid-19 jabs and reminders to patients about when they should receive their second dose of the drug. 

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