COVID-19: Are vaccine passports a good idea? (COVID-19)

Allegra Wisking
April 8, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the global economy, and as the numbers of those vaccinated rises, there has been discussion as to whether vaccine passports may be useful in promoting economic recovery. These passports would permit those vaccinated to move more freely, allowing activities such as foreign travel, return to high-risk working environments, or visiting a pub or cinema. Britain has proposed that the vaccine passports would not only include vaccination status but also results from infection tests, proof of completion of quarantine, or exemptions from vaccination for health reasons.

Food for Thought

What are the negatives of a COVID-19 vaccination passport?

  • The right to choose: many people chose not to be vaccinated for fear of what it contains and long-term side effects. They have a right to reject it, as each person should have autonomy over their body. Is it ethical for people to be pressured into taking the vaccine for fear of reduced travel and employment opportunities? Does this not infringe on their rights? However, do you think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? Consider herd immunity and how it works.
  • Privacy: through vaccine passports, more companies would be able to access your medical records. Airlines, cinemas and shopping centres may require vaccine passports and may demand explanations as to why someone hasn't been vaccinated. People would be forced to share sensitive health information with many different parties, with no idea on how this data will be used or misused. What ethical issues are raised here? How would we be able to ensure confidentiality?
  • Vaccine Effectiveness: over time the virus has mutated leading to new variants. There is limited evidence on the effectiveness of the vaccine on these new variants. In addition to this, there is the question as to whether the vaccine significantly reduces transmission of the virus. Therefore loosening restrictions for those vaccinated may still pose a great risk, especially if they wish to travel to areas where Covid-19 rates are still high.

Practice Interview QUestions
  1. If you were responsible for making decisions on behalf of the UK government, would you encourage the implementation of vaccination passports? Give your arguments for and against.
  2. How do you think vaccine passports may impact individuals' mental wellbeing? Think about those who chose not to be vaccinated or are unable to do so due to health reasons
  3. Can you think of any examples of similar schemes ie. where individuals have to have certain vaccinations to enter a country or partake in particular activities. Why might these be more widely accepted?
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