Equality watchdog warns of ‘two-tier society’ with vaccine passports

Support us and go ad-free

Introducing coronavirus status certificates (vaccine passports) could create a “two-tier society” which discriminates against certain groups, the equalities watchdog has warned.


The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said vaccine passports could be a “proportionate” way of easing restrictions, following the “significant curtailment” of freedoms due to lockdown measures.

But in a submission to the Cabinet Office following a call for evidence, it raised concerns about “unlawful discrimination” against people from disadvantaged or ethnic minority backgrounds by restricting access to jobs and services.

The warning came after the Department of Health and Social Care launched a consultation on making vaccination a condition of deployment for staff at older adult care homes in England.

The EHRC said:

In principle, Covid status certification could be a proportionate means of safely opening up society.

But there are concerns about potential for discrimination or for infringement of civil liberties in the use of certification status to travel, go to work, enjoy social activities and access essential services, and the creation of a two-tier society whereby only certain groups are able to fully enjoy their rights.

These equality and human rights considerations must be considered in detail by Government, with clear steps taken to address any anticipated negative impacts.

In review

A government review into coronavirus status certification for settings such as theatres and nightclubs is ongoing, while they might also be used in pubs and restaurants to reduce social distancing restrictions.

The documents would record – either on an NHS app or a paper certificate – whether someone has had a vaccine, a recent negative coronavirus test, or natural immunity having recovered from the virus.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

But the commission said that as take-up of the jab is lower among people from certain ethnic minority backgrounds, migrants, and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, these groups risk being excluded from services. It added:

Some of these groups have also been hit hardest by the pandemic.

While the Government has stated that the vaccine is available to all, if Covid status certification requirements become widespread the Government risks further excluding these groups from access to essential services and employment.

The commission added that blanket mandatory vaccination policies were likely to be “unlawful” and called for any policies to reflect the latest guidance on who can and cannot receive the jab.

They include people with severe allergies who are being advised not to have the vaccine, while pregnant women cannot be routinely offered it, according to the commission. It said any policy would need to reflect the progress of the vaccination rollout, to ensure it does not discriminate against younger people who are yet to be offered it.

HEALTH Coronavirus SelfIsolation
(PA Graphics)


The government has said care home staff in England could be required to get a coronavirus jab as a condition of deployment to protect elderly residents.

The five-week consultation will seek views on the proposal, such as potential impacts it could have on staffing and safety, how it could be implemented, and who could be exempt.

Keir Starmer didn’t take a firm position on the proposals. The Labour leader said during a visit to Gower, South Wales:

I think everybody wants care home staff to be vaccinated. There’s a unanimous position on that. The question is whether that should be mandatory.

Obviously we’ll look at what the Government puts out in any consultation.

But the most important thing is to roll out the vaccination programme fully, and make sure just as many people are vaccinated as possible.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us