Ministers have been criticised for their failure to let some people vaccinated overseas have their double-jab status recognised by the NHS, after a promise the system would be changed to enable them to do so by the end of July was not met.
In the final week before the Commons broke up for recess, the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, sought to reassure MPs that the government was working quickly to help those who were inoculated overseas but registered with a GP in the UK.
He said on 22 July that “by the end of this month” that would change – and that “UK nationals who have been vaccinated overseas will be able to talk to their GP, go through what vaccine they have had, and have it registered with the NHS that they have been vaccinated”.
GPs would need to check the vaccine the person received had been approved in the UK – and once that process was completed they could have their vaccine record updated, enabling them to prove their double-jabbed status.
The government is already urging some venues such as nightclubs to use the NHS app’s Covid pass, which only displays people’s vaccine status if they were jabbed in the UK – meaning those who got their dose overseas will not be able to use the technology.
When asked by the Guardian if people jabbed abroad could have that information registered with their GP, the Department of Health and Social Care admitted the change earmarked to happen by the end of July had not yet come into force.
A spokesperson said: “Only Covid-19 vaccines administered in England and Wales can currently be shown through the NHS Covid pass.
“We recognise there are a large variety of Covid-19 vaccines being administered worldwide and work is ongoing to determine which non-UK vaccines and certification solutions to recognise.”
The DHSC added that people registered with a GP who were vaccinated overseas could contact their practice – but they still could not use the app to demonstrate their inoculation.
Liz Kendall, the shadow health minister, said it was “yet another case of ministers over-promising and then failing to deliver, leaving many people still unable to obtain a Covid pass after being told they’d be able to”.
She added: “Those who live abroad and have done the right thing by getting vaccinated will feel let down by the government’s failure to find a solution.
“Ministers need to be straight with the public and provide clarity about progress on a globally recognised international vaccine passport – working with the EU and US to get travel moving again.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP and vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on coronavirus, said people who received recognised vaccines abroad were “being let down by the government’s mixed messages and broken promises”.
She added that there should be “swift action to make the NHS pass compatible with international systems and ensure those who were told they could use it are able to”, and that ministers should be “clear and consistent in their advice to avoid further damaging public trust”.
While arrivals from overseas are locked out of using the NHS app for domestic certification to prove they have been vaccinated, the government did change the rules from this week to let in those who have been double-jabbed in Europe and the US – so long as it was with a vaccine approved for use by three regulators: the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.