What are the pros and cons of Covid vaccine passports? | Coronavirus

Desperate to return to pre-pandemic normalcy, many countries where vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 are in full swing are considering approving “vaccination passports” to restart international travel and reopen the economy.

A week ago the UK government ruled out plans for such passports – Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi called them “discriminatory” – but on Sunday Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the documents were “under consideration”. Labor politicians have endorsed its introduction, and former Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke out in favor of domestic vaccination certificates in this week’s mail on Sunday. What are the advantages and disadvantages of such “immunity certificates”?

The case for

Incentive They could serve as a powerful motivator for people to get vaccinated. However, David Archard, chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, argues that this is not necessarily an appropriate way of achieving vaccine compliance that can be better secured by providing more complete and accurate information to people.

opportunities By obtaining a certificate, some people who were denied access to certain work opportunities by the pandemic could benefit from it. “And that’s important,” says Archard. “Finally, last year we looked at significant restrictions on people’s freedoms and here is one way that individuals might now be able to regain fundamental freedoms that are very precious to them.”

travel The passports could also be useful for international travel. If you will be vaccinated, it is unlikely that you will have severe Covid-19 disease that may require hospitalization abroad. Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, says that when a country’s hospitals are already struggling with high levels of Covid-19, “they don’t want people from the UK to come on vacation and then with them go under Covid and increase the burden on their health services. [If you are vaccinated,] You are also unlikely to develop Covid-19 during your stay [because] you brought it into the country or [because] you picked it up the first week of vacation. “

The arguments against it

science While the vaccines used have shown impressive effectiveness in reducing the risk of hospitalization and death from symptomatic Covid-19, there is currently no concrete evidence that it can prevent transmission, scientists say. “So there is a risk of simply assuming that you are not spreading Covid-19 because you have been vaccinated, and that would not be a good scientific basis for a passport policy,” says Archard.

variants Most countries are in the early stages of introducing vaccines. The introduction of the passport system would be premature given concerns about the impact of existing variants – particularly those discovered in South Africa – on the protectability of vaccines. says Archard. “I think we’re around the middle of the first half and we don’t want to fully start introducing red and yellow cards yet. We want to go to the second half and see if we can see how it works. “

Discrimination Such passports are used to give vaccinated and presumably immune people the opportunity to do things that others cannot. Because the introduction of the vaccine is based on a priority system, some people will be vaccinated before others. Others who fail to get vaccinated despite the vaccine being offered may also lose their chances. There is a risk of stigmatizing people without certification, and Archard suggests that you can also punish people who are already disadvantaged because of certain inequalities.

Scam Hunter said the passports could encourage people who have not yet been vaccinated or are not going to be vaccinated to obtain certification on the black market. So when passports are accepted, he says, “It has to be done in a way that is not fraudulent.”

privacy Typically, health information such as vaccination logs is stored by the NHS. Those passports could mean data being shared with outside companies, Archard says. “Could it be used in an unfair, stigmatizing and detrimental way to the interests of the individual? Precise implementation would also raise reasonable ethical concerns that need to be addressed. “



Robert Dunfee