Here’s one way to promote COVID vaccinations – ban people who refuse to take them

  • Now that the first successful coronavirus vaccine is almost here, countries and regions of the world like the United Kingdom are beginning to grapple with how to get as many people as possible to take the vaccine.
  • Officials in the UK have begun to talk up the possibility that private businesses there, such as restaurants and movie theaters, might refuse service to people who haven’t been vaccinated for COVID-19, as a way to encourage the largest number of people possible to get the vaccination.
  • This could be done by relying on the same system the UK uses for coronavirus contact-tracing purposes.

A showdown between private business owners and people who refuse to get vaccinated for COVID-19 could be in the works in the United Kingdom, where news about the promising developments in the race to achieve a successful coronavirus vaccine is now increasingly being met with the reality of — great, now how do we get people to actually get vaccinated?

The UK minister in charge of the vaccine rollout there, on Monday, hinted at one way this might happen. And it actually involves allowing private businesses — like restaurants, movie theaters, bars, and the like — to deny service to people who can’t prove they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19.

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UK minister Nadhim Zahawi told the BBC that the way this could be done is by places like restaurants and movie theaters tapping into the same phone app system in the UK that’s used to facilitate contact tracing for COVID-19. “The sort of pressure (for people to get vaccinated) will come both ways,” Zahawi said. “From service providers — who will say, ‘Look, demonstrate to us that you have been vaccinated’ — but also we will make the technology as easy and accessible as possible.”

This follows the UK’s rollout of a contact tracing app back in September to help curb the spread of the virus there. Zahawi, for his part, added that there’s an expectation businesses will step up and adopt measures in response to people’s vaccination status.

“I think people have to make a decision, but I think you’ll probably find many service providers will want to engage in this in the way they did with the app,” Zahawi said.

The UK government has reportedly already finalized purchases from the makers of the top vaccine candidates — for example, such as 100 million doses purchases of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as 5 million of Moderna’s. Speaking of Moderna, it announced on Monday that it would be applying for emergency use authorization in the US and Europe straightaway.

At least in the UK, a vaccine is expected to be available sometime before Christmas, pending approval from regulators.

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