MY friend uses the acronym KPMG, short for Keys, Phone, Money, Glasses, to help him remember everything he needs when he goes out. Last year he added another M for Mask. And if those who would surrender liberty for what they perceive to be safety prevail, he could be doubling up the Ps, this time P for vaccine passport.

Michael Gove, UK Minister for the Cabinet Office, is conducting a review into whether covid-status certificates should be used here. You have until Monday to respond. I will certainly do so, along with others who treasure the concept of health autonomy, and believe that any such initiative would be discriminatory, coercive and authoritarian.

Earlier this week it emerged that Westminster health secretary Matt Hancock and Prime Minister Boris Johnston, giddy on power in the absence of a functioning opposition party, want to force care home workers to take covid vaccines. No jag, no job. What sort of regime runs the UK? I thought we lived in a liberal European democracy, not a state that bullies it citizens into submission.

We have never previously been put under pressure to vaccinate. Flu vaccine, for instance, is offered to high risk people and taken up voluntarily. Vaccine passports would mark a hasty, ill-conceived, departure from the status quo. Good luck controlling that Frankenstein.

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For sound reasons our public health policy has always been based on consent. We signed UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, which states: “Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information. The consent should, where appropriate, be express and may be withdrawn by the person concerned at any time and for any reason without disadvantage or prejudice.”

Apply those last four words to Gove’s proposal, and alarm bells should ring.

Couched in the language of liberation – “green pass”, “green certificate” – this documentation would create a checkpoint society with two tiers of citizens. There would be those who have consented to vaccination, either through volition, or through duress, the latter in response to the threat that ordinary human life – work, travel, social interaction, hobbies, insurance, state benefits, and more – will otherwise be made impossible.

The unvaccinated would become the covid equivalent of “les sans papiers”, an undocumented underclass of non-compliant, marginal people on the wrong side of government pass laws. “Disadvantage or prejudice” would apply to them, in bucketloads.

The UK government has run an effective campaign to convince us that mass vaccination – one, twice, probably thrice, and as new variants appear, indefinitely – is the key to unlocking our currently bleak and unnatural lives.

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This assumption is based on pharmaceutical companies’ data, which suggests that vaccination reduces the seriousness of the illness, if you do get the disease. The scientific court is still out on whether it helps reduce transmission. Uptake has been exceptional. On this basis the government should have the courage of its convictions to open up society rather than finding new reasons to keep us in never-ending lockdown.

The established medical view is that to achieve herd immunity, you require around 80-90% of the population to develop covid immunity, either through prior infection or vaccination. But Hancock and Johnson are hell bent on forcing covid vaccines on absolutely everyone.

That should be a red line for any democrat. We should respect the right of those who, for health, ethical, religious, or other reasons, choose not to be vaccinated, or are unable to be vaccinated. This important principle has long been been enshrined in our health system and we should not be stampeded into surrendering it now.

My upper left arm is a moonscape of childhood vaccine scars. “It’s just another jag”. Covid vaccine certification is nothing new, we’re told. Yellow Fever certificates are offered up as a precedent. I willingly had a yellow fever jab when I went to Ghana, but this argument is bogus. A yellow fever certificate is only required if you travel to one of the endemic countries, and that disease has a 30% death rate.

I’m sure many people erroneously believe that covid poses a similar degree of risk. After all it has been presented as the new Spanish Flu. But just two in 1,000 (or fewer) of those who get covid die. The vast majority who test positive have no symptoms at all; most do not become seriously ill.

And while previous plagues have been indiscriminate in their targets, covid has a pattern. The average age of fatality is over 82, higher than Scotland's typical life expectancy. Every day 1,666 people die in the UK. As I write, 17 died with Covid-19 yesterday.

Yellow fever vaccine, in use since the 1930s, is a well-studied jag with a long history of beneficial use, whereas covid vaccines are experimental, created by new genetic techniques, not conventional methods. They are still under temporary licence pending publication of long-term safety data. The manufacturers own trials won’t complete until 2022 or 2023.

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Be under no illusions, vaccine passports would discriminate against swathes of the population.

Young people who, because they are generally at a low risk of serious illness from the virus, will always be last in line to be offered a vaccination. Add to that group pregnant women: Covid vaccines are not routinely advised for them. Breastfeeding mothers and women who hope to conceive are also understandably cautious about having a vaccine when, as yet, safety data in key categories are lacking.

Former Tory cabinet minister David Davies predicts that any venue operating ‘no jag, no entry' schemes will “run straight into a court case”. I never thought I’d be grateful for his contribution in any debate, but then I never saw myself living in an authoritarian state.

Imagine if HIV-positive people were forced to identify themselves to gain entry to pubs, festivals, theatres, the workplace, travel. There would be a massive outcry, not just from the LGBTQ community. HIV status is a private matter between individuals and their doctors and it should remain that way. Ditto vaccine status.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.