An NHS Covid pass for travel will soon be made available to fully vaccinated 12-15-year-olds, i has learned.
Parents have complained of holiday disruption as countries such as Spain, Germany and Malta require proof that anyone over 12 has had both vaccines to enter. The NHS Covid pass app is only available to those aged 16 and over.
And in Italy, Austria, France and Canada, a vaccine pass is required for entry to public areas, which often includes hospitality venues – and in some cases ski lifts.
The new document, which will initially be given in letter form, will mean under-16s will eventually be able to prove their vaccination status for international travel.
But ministers and officials have not yet identified a date when the new Covid passes for children will become available, i understands – casting doubt on whether they will be ready in time for the Christmas holidays.
No 10 is keen for the change to come in as soon as possible to avoid scuppering family holidays, but civil servants at the Department of Health are still working on the project.
Stephen Smith has faced challenges providing the Covid status of his 12-year-old daughter, who has had one dose of the Pfizer jab and recently recovered from the virus, for travel abroad.
He told i: “This is long overdue but excellent news, albeit it appears that it will initially not be a digital solution. As long as the promised letter includes a QR code readable in Europe, this would be very welcome news for families who would no longer be prevented from travelling to Europe once their children are vaccinated.”
The NHS Digital team sent Mr Smith a letter reading: “The Government is exploring ways to provide fully vaccinated children aged 12-15 with a travel NHS Covid Pass. This will be available soon, initially via an NHS Covid Pass travel letter. Further information will be made available online.”
A screengrab of Stephen Smith’s correspondence with NHS Digital helpdesk about a Covid travel pass for under 16s (Source: Stephen Smith)
i understands the letter will only be available in hard copy form initially and will not be contained with the NHS Covid app.
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman told i: “We are exploring ways to enable children aged 12-15 to demonstrate their vaccination status for the purpose of international travel.”
Last week, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommended that 12 to 15-year-olds were given a second dose of the Covid jab.
More than one million children in that age group have received a single dose of the vaccine with around three million eligible, according to the NHS.
The roll-out of first doses began in September and children aged 12 to 15 can get their second dose 12 weeks after their first.
Some vulnerable children in that age group have already been allowed to receive two doses.
Over-12s have been eligible for second doses for some time in other European countries.
Despite being double-vaccinated against Covid, Stefan Micallef’s 13-year-old daughter was unable to prove her status for travel via the NHS
Stefan Micallef, 65, feels vaccinated children with disabilities and young people have been discriminated against by the restrictions on who is eligible for the NHS Covid pass for travel
“My daughter was double-vaccinated because she had priority because she has special needs [Williams Syndrome]. However in England, the NHS would not issue a Covid certificate or pass.
“We wanted to go to Malta because her grandmother lives there. It was important because my mother is 91 years old, she lives in a home, she had a stroke a few years back, she’s recovered reasonably well but you’re on borrowed time so to speak. She had not seen her since the summer before Covid broke out. And essentially, the rule in Malta was that anybody 12 years and over needs to have a certificate.
“How we solved it? Thank God we are Europeans. What my wife did, being French, she took all the information we had got from the GP, from our NHS clinic, we gave them all the evidence of my daughter’s vaccination and they issued an EU certificate.
“It’s totally discrimination, discrimination on the basis of age, because that’s what it is, and to a certain extent, giving the possibility to a disabled individual, child to be double-vaccinated, but then you don’t issue her or issue him with the necessary pass to enjoy the fruits of their vaccination.”