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

With the emergence of the new Omicron variant, the Government is making it mandatory to show that you have been fully vaccinated or have tested negative for Covid-19 at many entertainment venues and nightclubs in England. It has already been a legal requirement in Scotland and Wales since October.

You will also need to prove that you have had both vaccines if you are a health or social care worker in England who has face-to-face contact with service users. 

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: 13th December 2021

As of the 15th December at 6am, you will need to provide evidence of your vaccination status or having tested negative for Covid-19 within the last 48 hours to enter many entertainment venues and events. This is already the case in Wales and Scotland. You also need to prove that you have had both vaccines if you are a health or social care worker.

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.

However, as of the 15th December, businesses and event organisers in England that use the NHS Covid Pass as a condition of entry will no longer be able to allow access to those people who self-declare that they are unable to be vaccinated or tested.

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

What is the Covid-19 vaccine exemption list in the 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 announced plans to make the Covid Pass mandatory for many venues, which is part of the official plan B if Covid cases rise in winter. This follows the increased cases of the new Omicron variant.

From Wednesday 15th December 2021, the Covid-19 NHS Pass will be required for visitors to:

  • nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques
  • other late-night dance venues, where all of the following apply:
    • the venues is open between 1am and 5am
    • it serves alcohol during this time
    • it has a dancefloor (or designated space for dancing)
    • it provides music, whether live or recorded, for dancing
  • indoor events with 500 or more attendees, where those attendees are likely to stand or move around for all or part of the event, such as music venues with standing audiences or large receptions
  • outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees, where those attendees are likely to stand or move around for all or part of the event, such as outdoor festivals
  • events with 10,000 or more attendees, whether indoor or outdoor, such as large sports and music events

The venues that will be using the NHS Covid Pass are similar in Scotland and Wales, but please check for where you live.

If you’re exempt from being vaccinated or testing 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.

If you live in Scotland and are medically exempt, you will need to get a medical exemption certificate from your GP.  You can find out more on the NHS Inform website.

The Welsh Government hasn’t mentioned exemptions for its pass in its announcements 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 health and social care staff

All social and health care workers in England had to have had both vaccinations, unless they are medically exempt or exempt for other reasons.

The regulations apply to health and social care workers who have direct, face-to-face contact with people while providing care – such as doctors, nurses, dentists and domiciliary care workers.

They will also apply to ancillary staff, such as porters or receptionists, who may have social contact with patients but are not directly involved in their care. This will apply across the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated health and social care sector.

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.

By Disability Horizons 

More on Disability Horizons… 

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