Covid: Is Scotland lagging behind on vaccine certificates?

With the vaccination programme racing against the spread of new variants, rules around international travel are rapidly changing.

Although different countries have their own entry rules, a digital “passport” which provides evidence of a person’s vaccination status has been rolled out across the EU.

Similar apps have been rolled out in the UK, but people in Scotland have to request proof by post.

Some holidaymakers have complained about the “stress and frustration” caused by this paper system – but is Scotland lagging behind the rest of the UK?

What is a vaccine certificate?

People in Scotland have been able to access their certificate since 19 May – which shows both the dates of Covid vaccination and the type of drug administered.

The Scottish government said the service was intended to allow people access to a certificate without asking their GP, thereby “easing the burden” on the NHS.

While no countries required vaccination status to travel when the service launched, some countries now do – and destinations have different entry rules which can change at short notice.

The government has information which you can check before travelling.

More than 30 countries, including Greece and Spain, now accept the pass.

How do you get a vaccine certificate in Scotland?

The Scottish government has advised people to request the certificate if they are due to travel in the next 21 days.

People can view their vaccine status through the NHS Inform patient portal. Users have to log in using a unique username printed on their Covid vaccination appointment letter.

Originally people could download the document, but on 22 May the site suffered a security glitch which enabled people to alter details on the document using popular software programmes.

BBC Scotland was able to download a certificate and edit it to include a false name and the address of the BBC’s Glasgow headquarters.

A fix was implemented on 25 May, which meant people in Scotland could only request the document be sent to them by post.

Between 19-22 May, 40,112 vaccine certificates were downloaded and a further 58,229 paper records were issued between 19 May and 17 June – a total of 98,341.

Those who are not online can request the certificate to be posted by phoning a freephone Covid status helpline on 0808 196 8565.

However the fact that Scotland has not yet gone digital has been criticised by travel agents, who say travellers are being “blindsided”.

The first minister said that a digital solution was coming into operation following concerns that the paper system was causing airport queues and more interactions with staff and passengers.

A Danish firm has now been awarded a £600,000 contract by the Scottish government to develop a vaccine passport similar to those already in use elsewhere in the UK and Europe.

The Scottish government said: “We are developing an app to make it easier to show Covid status for international travel.

“This will include vaccination records and we aim to release this next month.”

What’s happening in Europe and the rest of the UK?

An EU vaccine “passport” has been introduced across all 27 member nations – plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Because the UK is no longer in the EU, the certificate is not available to most Britons, which has led to a number of problems.

The European system often requires people to present a QR code, however people in Scotland have been denied entry to certain places when they present their paper certificate.

France insists UK visitors are fully vaccinated before entry for non-essential travel. The country has also tightened its rules for any UK travellers who are not fully vaccinated, requiring them to have a negative test in the 24 hours before arrival, rather than the 48 hours allowed previously.

The country has also rolled out a new health pass which means people need proof of vaccination to enter places such as museums and cinemas.

Meanwhile Norway initially only accepted Norwegian, Danish, Swedish or EU digital Covid certificates as proof of vaccination or previous illness.

From 12 August it began to accept certificates from England and Wales as it was able to verify QR codes at the border.

Again this has caused problems for people in Scotland – including one man whose yacht has been stranded in Norway since last August.

People in England can use the NHS app to either download their certificate or have it emailed to them.

Similar systems are in place in Wales and Northern Ireland, and while the NI system went offline following a data breach in early August, it is now up and running again.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans “to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather” by the end of September.

Under these new measures, people would show proof of vaccination by using the NHS Covid Pass app in England.



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