With 85.8% of the UK’s population aged 12 and above now having received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, debates on when individuals should be required to provide proof of their vaccination status are ongoing. Individuals living in Wales, for instance, are now legally required to show a vaccine passport to attend sporting events or enter nightclubs, following last week’s Senedd vote. While Health Secretary Sajid Javid stated last month that vaccine passport plans would not go ahead in England, the Government nevertheless stressed that such plans would be kept “in reserve” over autumn and winter.
Considering this situation, the latest research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies looks at Britons’ views on vaccine passports and the reasons they may have for supporting their introduction.
Overall, 62% of Britons polled say they would support the introduction of vaccine passports in England to verify that individuals attending large event venues have been vaccinated, while just 15% say they would oppose this change. 19% would neither support nor oppose the introduction of vaccine passports for this purpose. Support is thus nearly identical to the 63% of Britons who said they would support the introduction of vaccine passports for attending sporting events, festivals, and night clubs in July 2021.
Though support is the majority position across all age groups, we find that older respondents would most welcome a mechanism to verify the vaccination status of individuals attending large events. 69% of respondents aged 65 and above express their support for the introduction of vaccine passports at such venues, compared to 58% of 18-to-24-year-olds, for example.
Overall support is similarly high when it comes to the introduction of vaccine passports for hospitality venues. 55% of respondents would support the introduction of vaccine passports to verify that individuals attending businesses such as pubs and restaurants have been vaccinated. 21% would neither support nor oppose such a measure, while 22% would oppose it.
At the same time, however, the public is split on how strictly pubs and restaurants would enforce vaccine passport requirements. While 35% think it is likely that checks would be strictly enforced, 37% of respondents think strict enforcement unlikely.
Despite older Britons expressing greater support for the introduction of vaccine passports, they also express more doubt regarding the strict enforcement of checks in pubs and restaurants. Whereas 43% of 25-to-34-year-olds, for instance, think it is likely pubs and restaurants will strictly enforce vaccine passport requirements, only 26% of respondents aged 65 and above share this view. Among this latter age group, 39% instead think it is unlikely.
More significantly still, 70% of Britons already feel safe eating at a restaurant or drinking at a pub outside, and 58% feel safe doing so inside—even without a vaccine passport policy in place. From the perspective of business owners, the incentive to implement such a policy is thus limited—at least if the aim is to increase feelings of safety among customers.
In fact, that Britons widely support the introduction of vaccine passports in pubs and restaurants even though they already feel safe attending such venues without them and have doubts about enforcement suggests that respondents may have other reasons for favouring their introduction.
Instead, many may understand vaccine passports as a means of making life for unvaccinated individuals more inconvenient—in the hope that it may encourage them to get themselves vaccinated. With preferential treatment for already vaccinated individuals that effectively penalises those unvaccinated, the introduction of vaccine passports could be a means to increase vaccination uptake among hesitant Britons. Indeed, in July 2021, nearly two-thirds (65%) of Britons polled thought it likely that if vaccine passports were introduced, more people would choose to receive a coronavirus vaccine than otherwise. This expected side effect is thus another reason why strong majorities say they would support the introduction of vaccine passports for entertainment or hospitality venues despite already feeling safe attending them today.