European leaders have announced plans to roll out a "digital vaccine passport" over the coming months, which they say will be available to British travellers by the summer. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the aim of the scheme is to allow Europeans to "move safely in the EU or abroad — for work or tourism".
The UK government is still considering whether or not to introduce its own vaccine passport scheme. Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was "deep and complex issues" surrounding the concept and urged that the UK "cannot be discriminatory” towards those who don't have the vaccine.
According to recent studies, there appears to be broad support for the idea, with a poll from health care app myGP indicating that 66 per cent of residents in England would welcome temporary vaccine passports to help businesses to get up-and-running.
Dr Russell Rook, co-founder of Christian charity YourNeighbour told Premier that the idea of being vaccinated before you go abroad "makes perfect sense" because the vaccine "protects us from spreading [Covid], and saves other people's lives".
He raised the point that a passport does have to only signifiy that a vaccine has been given. A passport "just records the fact that you've had a test that you are negative, that you are safe, that you're not going to get sick, and you're not going to get others sick," he said.
Others have raised concerns about their civil liberties and freedoms being infringed upon if they obliged to obtain the new passport.
A petition calling on the Government to "commit to not rolling out any e-vaccination status/immunity passport to the British public" has garnered more than 243,000 signatures. "Such passports could be used to restrict the rights of people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine, which would be unacceptable," it reads.
Rook, however, disagrees with this notion.
"The truth is, Covid is a horrible disease," he said. "And it has taken far too many of our friends and our loved ones over this last year. And God has given us the gift through medical science of a remarkable vaccine, which we already know reduces your chance of catching it, reduces your chance of spreading it, and most importantly, radically reduces your chance of becoming seriously ill with Covid if you are to contract the virus.
"So from our perspective, there's an element whereby we are choosing to be in one of two tiers, at the moment, I'm going to have the vaccine or I'm not going to have the vaccine, and if you are going to have the vaccine, actually you are protecting yourself and you are protecting others. That's the tier you're choosing to live in."
Rook said that those who object to taking the vaccine for various reasons should seek advice from trusted professionals.
"There are lots of people who have concerns about the vaccine, and I don't want just to overwrite those and say they shouldn't be concerned, or they shouldn't ask questions," he said. "The first thing we would say to anyone is ask your questions, go to speak to your doctor, go to speak to your pastor, go to speak to your pharmacist, go and get the best advice you can get, whether it's medical, moral or theological, to help you make an informed decision."
Rook added that "there are reasons why some groups in our population feel a bit concerned, there are parts of our population who have been let down by government in the past, who have been sometimes the wrong end of medical experiments historically".
"It's really important to acknowledge that at the beginning," he added. "However, it's also really important to acknowledge the clear truth that people are speaking into this domain.
"And whether that's the medical experts saying there are no human fetus contents in this vaccine. There are no animal products in this vaccine, that these vaccines have been properly tested. They've gone through all the kinds of measures that any kind of medical vaccine has been through and have passed, or whether it's actually the many, many theologians and senior church leaders across this country for the last month of every persuasion, every denomination, coming forward and saying, we not only believe that it's medically the right thing to take the vaccine. But we think theologically and morally, it's the right thing to take the vaccine.
"We believe that it is a gift of God to get us to the end of this horrible tunnel of Covid that we've been trying to get through over the last 12 months."
So far, over 20 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine in the UK. More than 800,000 have now had their second jab.