Vaccine Passports May Backfire, Scottish Lawmakers Told

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
September 30, 2021 Updated: September 30, 2021

The introduction of vaccine passports could backfire and stiffen opposition to vaccines among people who are already mistrustful, two medical experts told the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme for nightclubs and large events officially begins at 5 a.m. on Oct. 1, though a grace period means that businesses will not face the threat of enforcement action until Oct. 18.

Under the scheme, all adults, with a few exemptions, will have to prove they are fully vaccinated to enter nightclubs, sexual entertainment venues, indoors unseated live events with more than 500 audience members, outdoor unseated live events with more than 4,000 audience members, and other events with more than 10,000 audience members.

Giving evidence to the legislature’s COVID-19 Recovery Committee, Professor John Drury of Sussex University described what he called the “backfire effect,” where anti-vaccine views stiffen.

“Some groups harden, instead of becoming motivated to get vaccinated they harden in their anti-vaccine view because they construe and understand the scheme as a form of control,” he said.

Professor Stephen Reicher of St Andrews University said vaccine certification schemes can be “a double-edged sword.”

“We have data to show this, that in high-trust individuals and communities you find that the prospect of vaccine passports increases the intention to get vaccinated,” he said.

“Whereas for those who have low trust in communities such as the black community—where you have low trust—it can actually not only have no effect it can actually increase opposition.”

The Night Time Industries Association Scotland attempted to block the introduction of vaccine passports, arguing the scheme was “discriminatory” and “disproportionate.”

But the legal challenge was thrown out in court, as Judge Lord Burns said the measure was an attempt to address “legitimate concerns” arising from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic in a “balanced way.”

Also giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Professor Christopher Dye of Oxford University said he was surprised to see that, unlike vaccine passport schemes in other European countries, the Scottish plans do not include the option of a negative test to be used as an alternative to vaccination.

Dye said the advantage of providing the alternative is “it provides a back-up for those who really don’t want to be vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”

But a government minister said offering the alternative could “undermine” the government’s certification scheme.

“The benefits of concentrating the scheme on a purpose of increasing vaccine take-up rates would be potentially undermined by an alternative route of testing evidence being demonstrated,” said John Swinney, Scotland’s COVID recovery secretary.

But he said the government will continue to consider whether testing can also be included.

Lily Zhou and PA contributed to this report.