Booster jab will soon be required for Brits to obtain digital COVID travel pass

Nov 16, 2021

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The definition of what it means to be fully vaccinated is expected to change over the next few months, meaning that people in the UK looking to travel will likely need to get a booster shot.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that a third shot, the booster jab that supplements the vaccine protection is likely UK residents as more and more countries begin to require a third dose to achieve ‘fully vaccinated status.

“It’s very clear that getting three jabs – getting your booster – will become an important fact and it will make life easier for you in all sorts of ways, and we will have to adjust our concept of what constitutes a full vaccination to take into account of that,” Johnson said, according to the Guardian. “And I think that is increasingly obvious.”

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Being fully vaxxed will allow people to avoid onerous travel protocols some areas may put in place, such as mandatory quarantine which in many places largely apply to people who have not received a vaccination. Right now, having both shots of an approved COVID vaccine is enough to claim fully vaxxed status on digital vaccine passports and boosters are not a compulsory requirement.

A big reason for the adjustment is concern that a new wave of the virus is going to hit Europe just as the uptick in holiday travel is expected to resume – not to mention a surge in festive travel plans.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported nearly 2 million new COVID cases last week, the biggest single-week number since the start of the pandemic in spring of 2020. Several countries are already re-implementing travel restrictions (such as Denmark reinstating their COVID pass) or pushing for strict enforcement of protocols to guard against the spread.

Johnson warned that a winter lockdown isn’t out of the realm of possibility if a COVID resurgence occurs. “History shows we can’t afford to be complacent,” he said.

Because of the concern of a new spread, UK government sources say it was inevitable that requirements for the digital COVID pass would need to change for travel. At present, booster doses are not displayed on the COVID pass on the NHS app, raising fears that the pass may not be as effective as it could be to help limit the spread of COVID among travellers. Prime Minister Johnson said plans are in the works “ to add the booster to the NHS COVID travel pass.”

A number of European countries are making third doses a requirement to prove vaccination status for a variety of situations. In France, starting in mid-December, people over 65 must have had the booster jab in order to access restaurants, art galleries, or to travel long distances. Other countries, including Austria, Switzerland and Croatia, have placed expiry dates on fully vaccinated status. That, in effect, will prompt people to get booster jabs to be able to declare fully vaccinated status if they wish to travel to such nations.

Related: It’s getting harder to travel if you’re not vaccinated

At the moment, only people over 40 in the UK are eligible for the booster shot. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) continues to recommend boosters for all adults six months after their second jab,  the point at which studies show the vaccine protection starts to wane. On Monday, a lead government official on vaccines said approvals will be granted for teenagers aged 16 and 17 to receive second jabs of the vaccine.

The head of the JCVI said it was certainly possible that eligibility for getting a third booster shot may be extended for UK residents younger than 40 at some point.

A study by the UK Health Security Agency determined that booster shots provided more than 90% protection for people over 50. Two weeks after receiving a booster dose, studies showed that protection against symptomatic infection was 93.1% in those who had initially received Oxford/AstraZeneca and 94.0% for Pfizer/BioNTech.

Featured image by Dikobraziy for Getty Images


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