What are we to think of mandatory vaccine passports?
One of the hottest topics of debate in recent times is the issue of vaccine passports, and whether they should become mandatory. While concerns about public health and safety are of course legitimate, so too are concerns about freedom, human autonomy, and the rise of unchecked statism.
This piece cannot go into all those details, and further articles will be needed on this. But I can say that I am very concerned indeed with making such things compulsory. Here I will seek to do three things: give a brief overview of the issue; look at how various governments are dealing with this; and then offer some reasons why we should not support this.
What are they?
One piece from February said this about the matter:
For decades travellers have been required or advised to get certain vaccinations before travelling to different countries. These jabs are recorded in a small yellow card, formally known as the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP). Created by the World Health Organisation (WHO), these yellow cards are currently accepted as formal proof of vaccination for diseases such as yellow fever, cholera, rabies, and more.
In this new post-pandemic world, however, experts are talking about a new, electronic version of a vaccine passport, which would replace the ICVP, and eventually allow the return of not only international travel, but events with large crowds like sporting events, concerts and conventions, that are still limited in many parts of the world….
What you need to know about a COVID-19 vaccine passport:
-Many airlines are introducing mandatory testing and proof of vaccine will likely follow
-Countries are looking at introducing proof of a vaccine for entry
-There are multiple organisations working on a vaccine passport, including the Australian government
-Denmark is the first country to introduce the use of a vaccine passport
-Cruise lines are looking at vaccines as an important step in reviving the cruise industry vaccinated https://www.flightcentre.com.au/travel-news/travel-news/what-is-a-vaccine-passport-and-how-will-it-affect-your-travel
How are different places responding to this?
Many jurisdictions around the world are saying no to vaccine passports. Individual American states for example are moving in this direction. Let me mention several of them. Texas just took this step:
Governor Greg Abbott today issued an Executive Order prohibiting state agencies or political subdivisions in Texas from creating a “vaccine passport” requirement, or otherwise conditioning receipt of services on an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status. The order also prohibits organizations receiving public funds from requiring consumers to provide documentation of vaccine status in order to receive any service or enter any place. “Everyday, Texans are returning to normal life as more people get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. But, as I’ve said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced,” said Governor Abbott. “Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives. https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-issues-executive-order-prohibiting-government-mandated-vaccine-passports
And Tennessee is also ruling them out:
Tennessee Republicans are seizing on a conservative talking point that has taken hold in recent weeks: So-called “vaccine passports” and the need to prohibit them. Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday joined other Republican governors who have taken public stands in recent days against requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, an issue widely discussed in conservative media. “I think vaccine passports are a bad idea,” Lee told reporters. “I do not believe governments should impose vaccine requirements or mandates in any way and I’m working with the legislature to support legislation that backs that up.” https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/politics/2021/04/06/tennessee-vaccine-passport-gov-lee-pushes-bill-banning-requirement/7107268002/
In New York there seem to be mounting problems with this:
Thanks to a combination of bungling authoritarians and decaying legacy corporations, these entities are simply too incompetent to pull off a functioning vaccine passport program. New York’s rollout of its vaccine passport already has the markings of a five alarm dumpster fire. The New York State “Excelsior Pass” vaccine passport system, which was created by IBM, has so many issues that I wouldn’t be surprised if the program was scrapped altogether before the end of the calendar year. It has massive security flaws, a shrinking customer base by design, it remains incredibly impractical, and it’s incredibly easy to manipulate. Excelsior Pass sucks, thanks to the idiocracy that was responsible for its design and implementation. https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/new-yorks-vaccine-passport-program-is-already-failing
And federally, America, under Biden, has just said no to them:
The White House has ruled out introducing mandatory federal Covid-19 vaccination passports, saying citizens’ privacy and rights should be protected. Schemes to introduce such passports have been touted around the world as a way to enable safe circulation of people while fighting the pandemic. But critics say such documents could be discriminatory. The US said it did not and would not support a “system that requires Americans to carry a credential”. https://au.news.yahoo.com/covid-us-rules-vaccine-passports-213157295.html
The ’No’ case
Much can be said about rejecting such proposals. Medical and scientific bodies have also spoken out about these matters, including the WHO:
The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) on Tuesday said it rejects coronavirus vaccine passports for travel “at this stage” because of doubts over the efficacy of the injections as well as equity concerns. “We as W.H.O. are saying at this stage we would not like to see the vaccination passport as a requirement for entry or exit because we are not certain at this stage that the vaccine prevents transmission,” W.H.O. spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a news conference in Geneva, Reuters reports. “There are all those other questions, apart from the question of discrimination against the people who are not able to have the vaccine for one reason or another,” Harris added https://www.breitbart.com/health/2021/04/06/w-h-o-rejects-vaccine-passports-cites-lack-of-fairness-medical-doubts/
And an opinion piece in the British Medical Journal said this:
In this context of inequitable vaccine availability, vaccine passports would limit the movement of millions of individuals from LMICs, reducing their opportunity to travel regionally or internationally for employment, education, and business opportunities. This would have a substantial impact on the economic and social development of these countries. Differential freedom of movement would likely result in unidirectional travel of people from HICs to LMICs reinforcing the economic reliance of LMICs on tourism rather than trade. At an individual level within LMIC, people from younger and higher socioeconomic demographics may seek vaccination for economic rather than exclusively health reasons. Given limited vaccine supply, “queue jumping” in LMICs may threaten, or at least delay, coverage in older and higher risk individuals sustaining risks for covid-19 related morbidity and mortality. In addition, there are an estimated 88 million more poorer people now globally, with the majority residing in South Asia and across Sub-Saharan Africa as a result of covid-19.  With decreasing domestic economic opportunities, increased economic migration may reinforce brain drain in LMICs as younger people leave to seek other opportunities. This may pose a pervasive challenge to sustainable development.
Ultimately, we need to facilitate the economic growth of emerging economies to increase the health, wellbeing, and security of all. Vaccine passports interfere with that future as they create a structural barrier to sustainable development, benefiting only the few at the expense of so many. https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2021/03/30/covid-19-vaccine-passports-will-harm-sustainable-development/
Many others have spoken against this, including Ron Paul:
Ron Paul has warned that Covid-19 vaccine passports could be used by the US government to restrict freedoms, stirring up an already heated debate over whether such IDs are necessary. The former US congressman and physician said on Monday that requiring certificates to verify vaccination for international travel or daily activities would “solidify the whole idea that our lives belong to the government. They own liberty and now you are going to get permission to use a little bit of it. They are going to divvy it out a little bit. You’ll never get back what you should have,” he said while speaking on his program, the Ron Paul Liberty Report. https://www.rt.com/usa/520208-ron-paul-vaccine-passport/
And one website offers nine reasons why mandatory vaccine passports should be opposed:
The availability of effective vaccines means that those most vulnerable to covid-19, and soon anyone who wants and is medically eligible for a vaccine, will have a high level of protection from the virus. This means hospitalisations and deaths associated with the virus will drastically fall and overbearing controls on society cannot be justified. This means those who are vaccinated will be at a very low risk of becoming ill from Covid-19. Aside from the severe inequality and rights issues, it would make no sense to exclude unvaccinated people from public life as it is currently thought that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can transmit the virus. There is no conclusive evidence yet as to how the vaccines affect transmissibility of the virus.
The effect of covid passports would be to socially and economically exclude people without a covid vaccine or recent test result, and deny them basic freedoms. In doing so, some of the most marginalised in society would suffer discrimination. Under equality law, it is unlawful to discriminate against people with ‘protected characteristics’ – which include age, disability, pregnancy and religion or belief.
Research from across Europe shows that compelling people to take vaccines does not necessarily result in higher uptake of vaccines. Further, statistics show that the UK has some of the most positive attitudes towards vaccines across Europe, and that the top 5 European nations for positive attitudes towards vaccinations all have voluntary vaccination policies. The European nations with the most negative attitudes towards vaccinations include those with mandatory vaccination policies: Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia.
- CHECKPOINT SOCIETY
The UK has a proud history of opposition to ID cards. We are not a papers-carrying country. But covid passes would turn us into a two-tier, checkpoint society where we each have to show an app or certificate simply in order to enjoy public life. This would be a serious break from our long-guarded democratic traditions and would disadvantage marginalised people.
- SURVEILLANCE STATE
The combination of apps with sensitive health data and the subversion of everyday businesses and events into checkpoints could constitute the biggest expansion of the surveillance state ever seen in the UK.
- MISSION CREEP
Covid Status Certificates would likely begin with limitations meaning they could only be used for covid-19 – but after the huge cost and reorganisation of society, this would never last. Covid passes would inevitably expand to be used for other purposes. The rationale underpinning the proposal would be applied to other vaccines, seasonal influenza and other health issues – and potentially much more. It is quite possible that biological risk scores could expand and morph over time.
It is also likely that the first proposals for Covid Status Certificates will claim to be time-limited – but this would never last. If we accept covid certificates, we will never be able to get rid of digital health passes. Almost every promise about ‘temporary’ measures over the past year has been broken as they have endured and expanded. As the saying goes, nothing is so permanent as a temporary government programme.
This isn’t even as simple as a division between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. As more research emerges about the effectiveness of different vaccines against different coronavirus strains, it is feasible that covid passes could be used to put controls on people who received less effective vaccines or who require boosters.
Bodily autonomy is an important aspect of the right to privacy. Compulsory vaccination, as an involuntary medical treatment, amounts to an interference with the right to a private life https://bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/campaigns/stopvaccinepassports/
As mentioned, this is a hotly contested topic, with plenty of folks with strong views on the various sides of the debate. And as I also said, public health matters are legitimate areas of concern, but they must be balanced with great care in not recklessly eroding human freedoms and liberties, and in giving the State even more powers to control entire populations and restrict people unnecessarily.
One simply has to look at what is occurring in Communist China right now with its social credit system to see how frightening all this can become. Experts such as Steven Mosher have long been warning about this: it is bringing Orwell’s 1984 to reality. See this piece for starters: https://nypost.com/2019/05/18/chinas-new-social-credit-system-turns-orwells-1984-into-reality/
And former political advisor to Al Gore and Bill Clinton, Naomi Wolf has come out swinging against this, comparing it to what China is now doing:
I can not say this forcefully enough: This is literally the end of human liberty in the West if this plan unfolds as planned. “Vaccine passport” sounds like a fine thing if you don’t understand what these platforms can do. I’m the CEO of a tech company, I understand what this platform does. It is not about the vaccine or the virus, it is about your data. What people need to understand is that any other functionality can be loaded onto that platform with no problem at all.
What that means is that can be merged with your Paypal account, digital currency, Microsoft is talking about merging it with payment plans, your networks can be sucked up, it geolocates you wherever you go. All of your medical history can be included — this has already happened in Israel.
And six months later, we’re hearing from activists that it is a two-tiered society and basically activists are ostracized and surveiled continually. It is the end of civil society and they are trying to roll it out around the world. It is absolutely so much more than a vaccine pass, it is — I can not stress enough that it has the power to turn off your life, or to turn on your life, to let you engage in society or be marginalized. https://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2021/03/29/naomi_wolf_mandatory_vaccine_passport_could_lead_to_end_of_human_liberty_in_the_west.html
The truth is, when the government decides what rights the people can have, they can at any time take away such rights. That is not democracy – that is fascism.