Travellers who have had a booster jab, or a third top-up dose, of a COVID-19 vaccine will now be able to demonstrate their fully updated vaccine status through the National Health Service (NHS) COVID Pass, the UK government announced on Friday.
The addition will enable those who have had their booster or third dose to travel to countries such as Israel, Croatia and Austria, who have already introduced a time limit for the COVID-19 vaccine to be valid for quarantine-free travel.
Booster or third doses will not be added to the domestic COVID Pass as it is not a current requirement for individuals to receive booster doses to qualify as fully vaccinated, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
At this stage, it will also not be necessary to show evidence of a booster dose for travel into England from overseas, including from India.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for people to show their vaccine status if they are travelling abroad,” said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
“This update to the NHS COVID Pass will mean people can have their complete medical picture at their fingertips if they are going on holiday or seeing loved ones overseas. Getting a top-up jab is our best defence against this virus and I urge all those who are eligible to come forward and get boosted,” he said.
The NHS COVID Pass enables people to demonstrate their COVID-19 status when travelling abroad or when visiting organisations who have opted to use the domestic certification process. Since its launch on May 17, almost 20 million people have accessed the COVID Pass via the NHS App.
Booster and third doses will now show up automatically in the digital COVID Pass and will be visible from midday on Friday for users in England and in Wales from November 29. Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to follow as well. Over 13 million booster and third jabs have now been administered in the UK, providing those eligible with maximum protection as we head into winter.
This week, the UK government has also accepted the advice from the independent experts at the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to expand the booster programme to those aged 40-49, which means millions more people will be eligible to get their third dose.
“Getting a booster is the best way you can protect yourself ahead of winter and it’s great that those who have come forward can now demonstrate their vaccination status through the NHS COVID Pass if they are travelling overseas,” said UK Vaccines Minister Maggie Throup.
“It has also never been easier to book your booster, with walk-in sites open across the country and appointments available to pre-book a month before you are eligible for your top-up. For anyone who hasn’t yet had their jab, come forward as soon as possible for maximum protection ahead of Christmas,” she said.
The NHS reiterated that while vaccines give high levels of protection but immunity reduces over time, which is where the booster vaccine to top-up defences after a six-month gap from a second dose comes in.
The latest real-world study released this week, which looked at the effectiveness of booster doses at preventing infection, found that the risk of infection was around three times lower in those who had received a third dose, compared to those who had received two.
For those who were aged 50 and above, having a third dose reduced the infection risk by around half compared to two doses.
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