The return of Strictly Come Dancing has brought the usual mix of glitz, intrigue, and over-ambitious routines into homes across the nation. But this year there was an added twist to the dance-based psychodrama: a national debate on whether an individual has the right to keep their vaccination status private.
As millions tuned in for the first episode, the BBC was busy dealing with claims that some of the show’s professional dancers had not received a Covid-19 vaccine, potentially putting others at risk. on the close contact program.
With all UK adults being offered a jab, the issue has highlighted the difficulty in UK law of balancing an individual’s right to keep their medical information private with the right of colleagues to make informed decisions. on the risk of catching Covid-19.
“There is almost no legitimate reason to publish [an individual’s vaccine status] to the world at large, ”said Mark Stephens, data protection attorney at law firm Howard Kennedy. “But there may be circumstances – like on Strictly – to amplify that information so that people working closely with that person know what risk they are about to embark on.”
The BBC did not require attendees of the show to be vaccinated, with the Sun saying at least three professional dancers had not been vaccinated against Covid-19. While some people can’t get the shot for medical reasons, the tabloid suggested the show’s dancers would rather quit than be forced to have a jab.
An article in The Times also claimed that the Mail on Sunday attempted to name some of the dancers who refused to be vaccinated, only to meet strong reluctance from their lawyers. Similar problems have been encountered by people participating in team sports, with many professional footballers not having a jab.
However, the public is unlikely to find out which celebrities have refused a vaccine. Stephens said UK privacy law makes it almost impossible to justify the publication of private medical information, even if it is known to a person’s colleagues: “If you are a person informed of someone’s immunization status, you enter a circle of trust. You are not allowed to tell someone else, it is in order to make your informed decision as to whether you want to take a risk.
A handful of Strictly dancers, including Giovanni Pernice, Oti Mabuse and Amy Dowden, have publicly confirmed they are vaccinated. Unfortunately, Dowden then missed the show’s first episode after she and her partner Tom Fletcher caught Covid.
The BBC insisted it had strict testing regimes in place on Strictly Come Dancing and would not discuss individual cases: “The BBC has never commented or confirmed the vaccination status of anyone in the emission. This is not our place. It is not true that the BBC or the production crew of Strictly were worried by dancers or celebrities about the vaccination, or that they threatened to quit.