One of the practical challenges at this stage of a certification approach is that we are still learning about the vaccines’ effect on things such as transmission of the virus. That challenge has been recognised by the World Health Organization although, as I referred to a few moments ago, we had good news yesterday about early indications of the impact of the Oxford vaccine on transmission. However, there is still much to be learned about that.
We will continue to engage in international developments, including on the subject of vaccine certification. Those discussions are led at a global level by the WHO and will include consideration of technical details, ethical and equality issues, which are important, and privacy standards. The outcome of those discussions will guide our future work in the area.
The recovery phase of the pandemic will see a weakened global economy, with our domestic tourism industry in freefall. An internationally recognised digital passport could contain details of vaccination history and the results of Covid-19 tests, which could be accessed through a QR reader. Does the First Minister agree that the United Kingdom’s presidency of the G7 is an opportunity to lead on that issue, and that it is an idea whose time has come?
I believe that there is an opportunity to lead on the discussion. Is it an idea whose time has come? Right now, I am not sure that we are at that stage, because I do not think that we know and understand enough about the impact of the vaccines to know exactly what certification would be certifying. The whole world has to learn more about that before we can take final decisions. In the fullness of time, certification might have a role. We all know that, for travel to certain parts of the world, people already require certification of vaccination for some diseases, so it is not some new and unknown idea. However, it requires a level of understanding that no country has right now.
I hope that, in the not-too-distant future, we will have a much greater level of understanding and that those discussions can continue in a more meaningful way. We have an opportunity to be in a leadership position in that.