Events boss and solicitor on vaccine ‘passport’ discrimination claims

Controversial and divisive plans to introduce Covid double vaccine certification or ‘passports’ to certain venues have provoked mixed reactions among those in the industry.

Who London Events Club is for Londoners aged 50-plus. Due to the nature of her business, founder Alexandra Felce, 37, believes the government’s plans are in the interest of public safety.

She said: “At Who London we believe it’s ethically correct to ask for double vaccination certification in nightclubs and similar venues. We will be looking to hold our monthly events for Londoners 50-plus in a bar or nightclub and therefore we need to protect everyone as best we can, especially vulnerable individuals.

“We have an ethical responsibility to our members and guests as do venues. Whilst we cannot ethically enforce vaccination, we all have a duty of safety, both physiologically and psychologically.

“Socialising within crowds is part of London’s buzz and we want that to continue, so we’re pleased the government has now given a mandatory measure to keep us as safe as possible. This is a time for London to unite and work together, rather than there being inconsistency across venues.

“The economy needs to grow as well and this measure will be supporting venues and Events Clubs. However, if these businesses have a choice whether to make double vaccination certification compulsory, then they are creating a divide across the sector as customers will choose where to go based on their decision.

“Vaccines are not being enforced but entering a crowded nightclub will see proof of double vaccination mandatory from September. It is everyone’s individual choice whether to be vaccinated but it’s also the right of Londoners to feel safe going out.

“We feel to hold events without certification would have been discriminatory to vulnerable people who want to attend. There are plenty of sociable places to go if you are not doubly vaccinated. We have to protect the many and not the few.

“The new rules should be easier for venues in the long run. Double vaccination certification allows venues to keep a better check on their staff and guests’ safety both quickly and efficiently through routine.

“Venues want to do the best they can and these new measures ensure venues and events are consistent, fair and have confidence they are doing the ‘right’ thing.”

John Szepietowski, of Surrey-based Audley Chaucer Solicitors, explores the legal and moral validity of the proposal.

He said: “Article 2 Human Rights Act 1988 protects your ‘right to life’. This is an ‘absolute’ right and so the government must protect this right. The issuing of vaccine passports could be seen to be protecting this as the aim is to prevent others dying from what could be a fatal disease.

“However, the counter argument is that the mortality rate from Covid for young people is relatively low, making the measure disproportionate. Further, the vaccine passport in and of itself does nothing to protect the right to life. It is more down to the individual (hands, face, space) and their actions which determine the spread. Preventing you from entering one specific venue does not prevent you from spreading it to many other small venues.

“Article 5 concerns the right to liberty. It would be difficult to argue vaccine passports infringe this right – you are still able to travel and meet people, just not in certain venues. The deprivation of liberty refers more to imprisonment and physically not being able to move – it is not a right to do whatever you wish.

“Article 8 is more pertinent. The right to a ‘private and family life’ is interpreted broadly and includes personal identity. This could reasonably extend to your medical status as well. However, this right can be qualified for the protection of public safety, health and the rights of others.

“The key question therefore is whether the passports are a proportionate measure. In the UK, the passports would only be used for certain venues and it does not restrict other meetings or social interactions. Due to the limited scope of the passports, Article 8 is likely not infringed.

“It is important to remember that you still have the choice whether to consent to the vaccine. Even if the government are pressing ahead with their plans to make vaccine mandatory for care home staff, the obligation is directly only in relation to the profession itself. To argue therefore that the vaccine passports are a type of government control, infringing on the Article rights listed above, is therefore not likely to hold water.

“Under the Equality Act 2010, discrimination and victimisation are legally based on ‘protected characteristics’, such as age, race, sex and disability. Health status is not one of them. However, indirect discrimination is a real concern.

“As many young people have not yet had two doses, not due to their own choice but because they have been told to wait in line, the passports could indirectly discriminate against them. This is why the implementation of vaccine passports are being delayed – to give more the chance to have their jabs.

“Beyond this, however, there could still be age discrimination because more young people are concerned about the long-term impact of the jab. This links to gender discrimination as well as more women than men have concerns about fertility and the vaccine and so are less likely to take the vaccine. Likewise, those from black or minority ethnic backgrounds are statistically less keen on the jab and so passports could be seen to discriminate against them as well.”