Business travel will be easier in 2022 after news that the NHS app will start showing booster jabs in the coming days.
The Covid travel pass featured on the app is expected to start displaying evidence of a third dose. The change is designed to help older people when travelling to European countries, which have started imposing restrictions on those who have not had a booster.
Proof of boosters will initially be limited to the travel section of the NHS Covid pass rather than on domestic certification. However, the change makes it easier for the government to introduce boosters as a requirement for domestic vaccine passports, after Boris Johnson hinted that only those who had had three jabs would be considered fully vaccinated.
So far 13.9 million people have had a booster in Britain, with 384,421 more reported yesterday. The plan at present is to offer them to 40 million people over the age of 40.
The digital pass contains a QR code that can be scanned when proof of vaccination is required, notably at borders.
Some countries have also started requiring proof of a booster jab for entrance to indoor venues. France has said that from the middle of next month over-65s without proof of one will not be allowed into any indoor venue, including museums, trains, restaurants and bars.
Other countries, including Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and Israel, are imposing time limits on vaccination status. There will be travel restrictions for people who had their second dose nine months to a year ago and have not yet had their third. The travel industry has been pressing ministers to allow people to prove on the app that they have had a booster. Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, is among those who have urged ministers to remove “bureaucratic barriers” and allow people to prove their status.
Johnson said on Monday that the government would be “making plans to add the booster dose to the NHS Covid travel pass”.
It is understood that the change is expected to go live on the app within the next week, possibly as soon as today.
Dennis Reed, the director of Silver Voices, a campaign group for older people, welcomed the change.
“Obviously it will benefit those who go abroad this Christmas — it will be one less worry,” he said. “It will be very helpful not just for foreign travel but if vaccine certification is brought in for anything else, which it might be under plan B. Obviously booster jabs need to be on the NHS app for that.”
The change will not immediately apply to the domestic Covid pass, which is not required anywhere by law, but which ministers have encouraged large events and crowded venues to use. The government insists there is no need at present to move to its plan B for winter, which includes mandatory vaccine passports.
However, Sajid Javid, the health secretary, suggested last week that he would not rule out following the French model and barring people from pubs and restaurants if they had not had a booster.
Johnson also signalled the potential for tougher rules on Monday as he encouraged people to get their third jab, saying that “we will have to adjust our concept of what constitutes a full vaccination”. He added: “The general lesson is for anybody who wants to travel, you can see that getting fully vaccinated with a booster is going to be something that will make your life easier in all kinds of ways.”
There are also calls for the app to allow children to prove their vaccination status. Under-16s are not able to download a Covid pass, making it harder for them to travel in countries that require proof of vaccination.
France and Italy both require vaccine passports from anyone over 12 to enter almost any venue, meaning parents will have to pay for regular tests instead. So far a third of English children aged 12 to 15 have been vaccinated.