Now that Covid19 vaccines are rolling out, people who have been home for the past year are excited to travel to see loved ones or just to get a change of scenery. Countries across the world have begun announcing “vaccine passports”.
A vaccine passport allows citizens to use proof of vaccination to travel
The European Union has said it backs a “Digital Green Certificate,” that would enable citizens who have proof that they have taken the Covid19 vaccine, received a negative coronavirus test result, or have recovered from COVID-19 to travel across all 27 member states.
Even though the United States hasn’t announced a plan for vaccine passports, several companies within the United States are developing digital vaccine certificates for smartphone apps.
While there are many vague specifications around what vaccine passports may look like in practice, travel medicine professionals believe these passports may play a crucial role in international travel moving forward.
The notion that one needs a vaccine before one can enter certain countries is not new as Proof of immunization for yellow fever is already needed to travel to countries like Ghana and Brazil.
Utilizing the Covid-19 vaccine passports to set restrictions, however, has drawn persistent opposition based on several weighty concerns with the following points:
- While vaccine supply remains restricted, privileging people who are fortunate enough to have gained early access is morally questionable.
- Even after supply restrictions ease, the rate of vaccination among racial minorities and low-income populations seem likely to remain disproportionately low; relatedly, if history is a guide, programs that confer social privilege based on “fitness” can lead to invidious discrimination.
- The magnitude of the protection conferred by vaccination is not yet well understood, nor is the potential for viral transmission by people who have been vaccinated.
- Entitling the passport to a certain group will penalize people with religious or philosophical objections to vaccination.
- There is no consensus approach to accurately certifying vaccination.
Several views and ranges of contending assertions suggest that it would be precipitous and very unlikely in the United States to adopt an official government policy requiring extensive use of vaccine passports. On the other hand, the objections against the use of the vaccine passport fall short of justifying a ban on any uses of vaccine certification.
Also, requiring people who decline vaccination to bear some consequence for their refusal seems only fair, especially if, collectively, such hesitancy puts the nation’s immunity out of reach.
Probable solutions to doubt about the Vaccine passport
- Nations and governments as a whole can start by establishing standards for reliable documentation of vaccination. These standards are likely to emerge relatively soon from public-private partnerships in the travel sector and then spread to other settings.
- Nations and governments can clear doubts by allowing sports leagues, concert and sporting venues, clubs, restaurants, and other outdoor centers some latitude to set rules that determine access based on customers’ vaccination status. This would be reasonable and doing so may also serve wider efforts to encourage vaccine uptake.
- Government can help to mitigate inequities arising from private certification by boosting the supply and distribution of vaccines and redoubling efforts to reach underserved populations.