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Survey Justice and equalities

Public attitudes towards vaccine passports

Findings from a nationally representative survey on public attitudes towards a range of COVID-19 technologies, including vaccine passports

25 March 2021

Woman checking her Digital International Certificate of COVID-19

We identified one notable exception in the data, which related to public attitudes to the introduction of vaccine passports. The context for this is that, as the figures below illustrate, respondents had limited concerns that they themselves would be discriminated against. But people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and people on an income of less than £20,000 a year, indicated higher levels of concern that they would be unfairly discriminated against than White respondents and higher-income respondents.

The data divide

This is a section from a report of the findings of a nationally representative survey of 2,023 British adults to explore public attitudes towards a range of technologies deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic for health outcomes.

People from minority ethnic backgrounds reported that they are more concerned that they will be discriminated against as a result of the implementation of vaccine-passport schemes than people who are White – 49% of those from minority ethnic backgrounds were concerned they would face discrimination compared to 31% of White respondents.

Discovering reasons for this, particularly as it is an outlier finding, warrants further mixed-methods qualitative exploration to help inform a deeper understanding of the structural considerations and factors relating to risks of bias and discrimination. As the above chart demonstrates, another relevant factor was income – with those on higher income levels much more likely than those on lower income levels to say they were not that concerned, or not at all concerned, about vaccine passports.

The majority of the UK public is concerned about the potential discriminatory impact of vaccine passports:

While two thirds (64%) of the public are not concerned that vaccine passports will be discriminatory against them as individuals, slightly more than half (55%) do think that they are likely to lead to discrimination against marginalised groups, such as young people, people who are shielding, members of the LGBTQI+ community, people from a minority ethnic background or those who are in precarious work (e.g. on zero-hours contracts or gig workers). Only 36% said they did not think it was likely vaccine passports would lead to discrimination against marginalised groups.

There is substantial public concern that vaccine passports will be discriminatory and undermine public confidence, with particular concern about fairness among the majority of members of the public. This means that developers and governments considering the roll out and implementation of this technology should exercise caution and take a thoughtful and measured approach:

 

Despite mixed feelings around the discriminatory impact of vaccine passports, the majority of the public (70%) feel that the introduction of vaccine passports would positively influence the increase of vaccine uptake. However, as the above data illustrates, they are still concerned about the adverse impact on marginalised groups and divided in their views when it comes to fairness.

Lack of consensus regarding a ban on vaccine passports

 

While twice as many respondents (45%) disagreed with a ban on vaccine passports compared to those agreeing there should be a ban (22%), a third of respondents (33%) are still undecided. These responses highlight a lack of broad societal consensus, and reinforce the extent to which debates about these types of technologies, adopted during the pandemic, reflect a broader set of ‘data divides’ when it comes to the range of public attitudes across the UK.

Smartphone displaying a valid COVID-19 vaccination certificate in male's hand

What place should COVID-19 vaccine passports have in society?

Findings from a rapid expert deliberation to consider the risks and benefits of the potential roll-out of digital vaccine passports

Image credit: Vladimir Vladimirov

This is a section from The data divide – findings of a nationally representative survey of 2,023 UK British adults, to explore public attitudes towards a range of technologies deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic for health outcomes. Read the full report here, and explore the full dataset in Github.

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