As vaccination programmes are gradually ramping up across Europe, vaccine passports have been touted as the key to opening countries up domestically and to international travel. Supporters of vaccine passports have argued that they will help shops, restaurants, gyms, hotels, and even international borders open with a greater sense of security. Cyprus has already announced that it will welcome Britons who have had two vaccinations in early May in a bid to boost its economy, which is heavily reliant on tourism. The European Union is looking into a ‘Digital Green Pass,’ though the prospect is not without controversy: many have voiced concerns about issues of discrimination, personal privacy, and yet-unanswered questions about the potential for coronavirus to be transmitted by vaccinated people.
Two weeks ago, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies polled the British public about vaccine passports and found widespread support—which since then, has only increased.
When polled on March 1, 69% of British respondents said they would support the introduction of a vaccine passport to verify that an individual has been vaccinated, compared to 60% from our 17 February 2021 poll. This increase is most marked among the 65+ age group, where support grew from 63% to 79%. With the government aiming to offer all adults a vaccine by July 31, the prospect of vaccine passports appears to be readily accepted in Great Britain.
A significant 65% of Italian respondents support vaccine passports, which is likely related to the high willingness to receive a vaccine in Italy. The importance of tourism to the Italian economy could also play a role in this result.
Support is lower but still forms a majority (53%) in Germany. French respondents, however, demonstrated less support for vaccine passports, with 39% supporting and 32% opposing them.
There is a far greater gap between Great Britain and the EU countries when asked about restricting travel abroad only to those who have been vaccinated. While 69% support restricting travel to the vaccinated in Great Britain, 35% in Germany, 40% in Italy, and 42% in France said they support it. Again, this discrepancy is likely a result of the substantially different vaccination levels in Britain compared to Germany, Italy, and France. Still, support for such travel restrictions is felt by a plurality of respondents in each of the EU countries, with opposition at 29% in Germany, 28% in Italy, and 24% in France.
When asked if they would be willing to carry a vaccine passport personally, 69% of British respondents said yes, for all circumstances, 20% said only for international travel, while just 11% said no. Those over 65 (85%) are substantially more willing to carry one in all circumstances, compared to those aged 18 to 24 (49%). Italy saw similar levels of willingness, as 63% of Italian respondents said they would carry a vaccine passport for all circumstances and 22% for international travel only.
While similar proportions of German (23%) and French respondents (31%) said they would carry a vaccine passport only for international travel, there was less willingness to carry one in all circumstances than in Britain and Italy. That being said, the majority (55%) of Germans are willing to carry a vaccine passport for all circumstances. In France, by contrast, only 31% selected this response, while a plurality (38%) of French respondents said they would not carry a vaccine passport at all. Our research also found that 42% of French respondents would not get themselves vaccinated, so the unwillingness to carry a vaccine passport likely corresponds to this unwillingness to get vaccinated to begin with.
Support for the introduction of vaccine passports is evidently connected to support for coronavirus vaccines more broadly, which is likely a major reason why respondents in Britain and Italy are more in favour of them than those in Germany and France. Furthermore, while there are concerns about the ethics and efficacy of vaccine passports, many believe they are still necessary to urgently kickstart the tourism industry that so many European economies are reliant on. The concept of vaccine passports is thus sure to face significant scrutiny and investigation before being introduced, a process which the EU has commenced. In the UK, however, Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi has already ruled out the idea.