No decisions have been made on whether vaccine passports will be used in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister insisted any proposal for people to prove they have been vaccinated against coronavirus in order to gain entry into specific venues “need to be really carefully considered”.
It follows an announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson that vaccine passports will be required for entry to nightclubs in England from September.
Asked whether she was considering following the UK Government’s lead, Ms Sturgeon stressed that the Scottish Government has not yet decided whether to adopt the policy north of the border.
Speaking at Tuesday afternoon’s coronavirus briefing, she said: “We haven’t taken a decision on whether or not to require vaccine passports in any particular setting.
“That will be something we’re considering over the next period.
“I’ve said many times before that while there are arguments for a requiring vaccination to allow entry to certain places, it raises sensitive ethical and equity considerations – not least because there are some people who can’t get vaccinated because of health conditions and we are not yet in a position of having a recommendation to vaccinate all younger teenagers.
“So we’ve got to weigh up these things very carefully and while we’re doing that we need to continue to be cautious.”
She added: “I think these issues need to be really carefully considered.
“You already see it in the debate sparked by the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday: there are people who think we should use vaccine passports to open up access as much as possible and there are other people who think that are serious equity, civil liberties and ethical issues associated with these.
“So I understand the desire for speed on these things, but we’ve got to make sure we get this right.
“These may be things that – if they are introduced – might be in place for quite some time, so we’ve got to get the decisions right and when we are in a position to see more we will say that and I’m not going to go further on a speculative basis today.”
Pressed on the timings of any announcement on vaccine passports, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think it’s a reasonable assumption that we will say more about the state of our decision-making around vaccine passports before we signal the reopening of places like nightclubs, but don’t read into that anything about what that decision might be.”
Dr Nicola Steedman, Scotland’s deputy chief medical officer, previously said that any decision will be based on whether the Scottish Government views their use as the “right and equal thing to do”.
She also warned against the use of perceived coercion in ensuring people get vaccinated, saying the decision to have a Covid-19 jab should be up to the individual.
Dr Steedman told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We haven’t made any decision at this point on domestic vaccine certification… I don’t think it’s possible to say (when a decision will be made) at this time.
“What we do need to do is to go on the evidence and look very carefully at the equality and the ethical and logistical issues of this.”
Dr Steedman later conceded that a decision will have to be made soon due to the forthcoming August 9 deadline for Scotland to move beyond Level 0 of coronavirus restrictions, but she added: “We are very alert to the need to make decisions as quickly as we possibly can, but that doesn’t mean we hurry them to make the wrong decision.”
Asked if the infrastructure is available in Scotland to launch such a scheme, Dr Steedman said: “If that was the correct thing to do, clinically and ethically, then, yes, I believe Scotland does have the ability to do that.
“It’s not that that is influencing the decision, it’s about whether or not we believe this is the right and equal thing to do.”
According to the Times, less than half of men under 30 in Scotland’s cities have received their first dose of a vaccine.
Asked if a passport scheme could increase vaccine uptake, Dr Steedman said: “In theory it might, and clearly that’s something other nations have used to increase the uptake in their vaccination programmes, but we have to balance that very carefully against people feeling as though they’ve been forced into something or coerced.
“We really want young people to be vaccinated but we want it, ideally, to be their choice, so we don’t believe in using coercion to encourage people to be vaccinated, we want them to do it for the right reasons.”