Covid-19 vaccine exemption pass: what to do if you cannot be vaccinated or test for Covid

Now that most Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted across the UK and more than 39 million people have been fully vaccinated, we can enjoy more freedoms.

But to access many public places and services, you may need to have an NHS Covid Pass to show you have been vaccinated or have tested negative for Covid-19 – and it is a legal requirement in Scotland and Wales.

You will also need to prove you have had both vaccines if you are staff working in a Care Quality Commission-registered care home in England. 

However, what should you do if you cannot be vaccinated or tested due to medical reasons? Here, we explain who is exempt from using the pass and how to access venues if you are.

UPDATED: 3rd December 2021

With restrictions ending, we can now return to some form of normality and enjoy visiting pubs, clubs and restaurants, going to gigs, festivals and theatres, and even travelling abroad.

But to be allowed to access many of these places and services in England, you may need to provide evidence of your vaccination status or having tested negative for Covid-19 within the last 48 hours.

In October, this will become a legal requirement in Wales, and it will be mandatory to show your vaccine status in Scotland when entering venues.

You’ll also need to prove that you have had both vaccines if you work in a care home, as this is a mandatory requirement as of 11th November 2021.

To prove your status, the Government has created the NHS Covid Pass, with different versions for the relevant nations:

However, some people cannot vaccinate or test for medical reasons, for example, because they are immunocompromised, so can’t be vaccinated.

If you are exempt and live in England, you’ll need to apply for proof of this to your doctor or specialist health provider. If approved, the NHS Covid Pass can be used to prove your status.

This was announced as new guidance on 1st October 2021 – before people could self-declare a medical exemption.

Whilst waiting for your application to be approved, which can take three weeks or more, you can still self declare, but it is up to the venue to decide whether to accept this.

The rules are slightly different in Scotland and Wales – more on this below.

We want to ensure that no one with a disability or health condition is excluded. That’s why we created a Covid NHS Pass exemption card before this latest announcement.

It is a visual aid to help you convey your self-declared exemption and can be used until it you have official approval.

Covid-19 vaccine exemption list UK?

There are some circumstances where people cannot demonstrate their Covid-19 status by having the vaccination or a test for medical reasons. This could include:

  • people receiving end of life care where vaccination is not in the person’s best interests
  • people with learning disabilities or autistic individuals, or people with a combination of impairments where vaccination cannot be provided through reasonable adjustments
  • a person with severe allergies to all currently available vaccines
  • those who have had an adverse reaction to the first dose (for example, myocarditis)

This isn’t an exhaustive list and there are other medical conditions that could also allow you to get a medical exemption.

There are also short-term exemptions for people with short-term medical conditions. This could, for example, be used if you are pregnant and don’t have the vaccine.

This list is from the NHS England website. In Scotland, people under 18, participants in vaccine trials, people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons and those performing or working in the venues, are exempt.

There aren’t yet details of exemptions in Wales. We will update this story when we know more.

To find out all you need to know about the vaccine and who is eligible, visit our Covid-19 vaccine guide.

Accessing venues if you’re exempt from vaccination or testing

In England, the Government has withdrawn plans to make the Covid Pass mandatory for many venues, but some may still go ahead with using the NHS Pass or something similar, and a number already are.

It is also still part of the official plan B if Covid cases rise in winter. Scotland and Wales have still gone ahead with the scheme and it is now in place.

If you’re exempt from being vaccinated or tested for Covid-19 but still want access to events and venues in England that request NHS Covid Pass, then you’ll need to get proof of your medical exemption.

To do so, phone the NHS Covid Pass service on 119 to ask for an application form. You will need to give:

  • your name
  • your date of birth
  • your NHS number (if you know it)
  • the name of your GP and/or specialist clinician.

If you’re eligible to apply, you’ll get an application form by post. Once filled in, you’ll then need to return to the GP or clinician stated on the form.

You may be called for more details by the GP or clinician, but you don’t need to contact them or book an appointment. A carer can apply for a medical exemption on your behalf.

You’ll get the results automatically within two to three weeks. If your exemption is approved, you will be able to use the NHS Covid Pass. It won’t show that you are exempt, simply that you have the pass.

Until your approval is granted, you can self-declare as exempt. However, businesses and event organisers in England can decide whether or not to allow you to enter.

This applies until mid-December 2021, after which time you will have to use the NHS Covid Pass.

Whilst you are waiting for your approval, you may want to use our Covid NHS Pass exemption card as a visual aid to show your self-declared exemption. But please be aware that it doesn’t guarantee entry.

Scotland is waiting to release its full list of exemptions and is working on an exemption scheme that works “in a way that is compatible with the human rights of those who may be entitled to exemption.”

The Welsh Government hasn’t mentioned exemptions for its pass in its latest announcement or official guidance. We will be keeping an eye on what happens and update this story when we know more.

Mandatory vaccines and exemptions for care home staff

As of 11th November 2021, all care home staff working in a Care Quality Commission-registered home in England had to have had both vaccinations, unless they are medically exempt or exempt for other reasons.

All staff members need to have had their first vaccine by 16th September to allow time for the second. If you work in a care home and haven’t yet had a vaccine, speak to your employer as soon as possible.

You’ll need to use the same NHS Pass as with venues to prove you have had both. The same medical exemptions also apply and you can self-certify in the same way.

Care home residents and friends or relatives visiting residents don’t have to abide by this regulation. You can also be exempt if:

  • it is reasonably necessary for the person to provide emergency assistance in the care
  • it is reasonably necessary for the person to provide urgent maintenance assistance to
    the care home
  • the person is a member of the emergency services in execution of their duties
  • the person is visiting a resident who is dying (further detail below)
  • it is reasonably necessary for the person to provide comfort or support to a resident in
    relation to a resident’s bereavement following the death of a relative or friend
  • the person is under the age of 18.

You can find out more information on the Government website.

By Disability Horizons 

More on Disability Horizons… 

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