Allowing those who have received two doses of a coronavirus vaccine to skip quarantine would be unfair and could cause “resentment”, according to a scientific adviser.
Professor Robert West, a health psychologist who is a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), which advises Sage, said the problems associated with such an exemption “outweigh the potential benefits”.
His comments come amid reports that ministers are due to meet on Monday to agree a plan to drop all legal requirements, including self-isolation, for fully vaccinated people who come into contact with someone who is infected.
The University College London academic told Times Radio: “The most serious problem is that if you have a situation where not everyone has been even offered the vaccine then you’ve already got clearly a huge unfairness.
“When you get unfairness in situations like this, you get resentment and when you get resentment you can get loss of compliance.”
But Prof West’s assertion has been challenged by other medical experts who said it would be “perfectly OK” to allow those who are fully vaccinated more freedoms.
Dr Bharat Pankhania, a senior clinical lecturer in communicable diseases at the University of Exeter, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that vaccines were breaking the link between cases, hospital admissions and deaths, meaning “we can start thinking about other uncoupling measures, such as no need to quarantine after being fully immunised”.
Epidemiologist Professor Christophe Fraser, who advised the Department of Health on test and trace, said a “midway” proposal could be that those who have received both jabs are tested every day instead of undertaking a quarantine period.
The Oxford University academic said he agreed the self-isolation policy “needs to be reviewed in light of the data on the vaccine effectiveness”.
The debate about extra rights for those who have been vaccinated is playing out amid a background of an “alarming” rise in Covid-19 cases in England.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that about one in 260 people in private households in England had Covid in the week to June 26 – up from one in 440 in the previous week and the highest level since the week to February 27.
The increase has caused leading doctors to urge the Government to keep some restrictions in place in England after July 19 in a bid to stem the rate of infection.
The British Medical Association (BMA) said that keeping some protective measures in place was “crucial” to stop spiralling case numbers having a “devastating impact” on people’s health, the NHS, the economy and education.
Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty, according to The Times, has privately predicted that the use of face coverings will continue to be needed after the Prime Minister’s “terminus date” for unlocking.
The report follows Health Secretary Sajid Javid refusing to confirm, when asked to by MPs in the Commons this week, that all restrictions will be scrapped at Stage 4 of the road map out of lockdown.