NHS app: Government considers vaccine-status options for clinical-trial participants

Written by Sam Trendall on 15 June 2021 in News
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Thousands of citizens vaccinated as part of research schemes currently need to request a letter to demonstrate that they have been vaccinated

Credit: Ulrike Leone/Pixabay

The government is investigating the possibility of including in the NHS app vaccination status certification for tens of thousands of citizens that have been immunised as part of a clinical trial.

Across the UK, almost 30,000 people have taken part in phase 3 clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines. This includes 10,754 involved in research of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and about 6,000 that took part in tests of the single-shot Janssen vaccine.

Both of these have since been approved for use in the UK.

A further 11,955 were involved in trials of a vaccine from Novavax which has a reported efficacy of 90% or more and is expected to gain approval in the coming days or weeks.

But, unlike citizens who have been immunised as part of the ongoing national vaccination programme, those who were vaccinated as part of these trials cannot currently demonstrate their status via the NHS app.


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If they wish to demonstrate their vaccine status, these people must contact the organisers of the trial in which they took part and ask for written certification, according to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

However, the government is considering how this information could be provided via the NHS app – as well as a hard-copy option for those without digital access.

“Those participating in UK vaccination trials can request a letter from the trial they are participating in to confirm their vaccination status, which will include vaccine type and dose information,” Zahawi said. “The government is exploring how vaccine information for those on clinical trials can be linked to the NHS App, as well as to a non-digital solution.”

The minister was responding to written parliamentary questions from fellow Tory MP Desmond Swayne, as well as Labour’s Navendu Mishra.

Another enquiry, from former Brexit secretary David Davis, asked “what assessment… has [been] made of the effect of the NHS app's storing of vaccination data on civil liberties”.

“When individuals use the NHS App to demonstrate their Covid-19 vaccine status, the data is not stored within the app, but is made available to the app temporarily without any access to their general practitioner records,” said patient safety minister Nadine Dorries, in response. “Covid-19 status data can be viewed during ‘live’ access, held temporarily for the duration of their login.”

She added: “A data protection impact assessment has been completed on the COVID-19 vaccine status service, which is provided through the NHS App, to assess and mitigate privacy and data security risks, including risks to civil liberties. In addition, a full equalities and health impact assessment was completed on the digital and non-digital routes for the certification service in advance of the national launch to assess the impact of the products on groups with protected characteristics. The data protection and equalities and health impact assessments are both kept under review as the service is developed.”

 

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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