Vaccine Passports: Liberating or a threat to liberty?

Vaccine Passports: Liberating or a threat to liberty?

With the vaccine rollout in operation, many countries are now considering vaccine passports for those immunised from COVID-19. But this decision is controversial.

We’re finally on our way out of our third, and hopefully last, national lockdown in the UK. With the vaccine rollout in full swing, the government is now reviewing whether or not people should be required to prove they’ve been vaccinated.

Verification may come in the form of a vaccine passport to be displayed upon request. 

Is the UK considering it?

This isn’t an easy decision, and the government is weighing up the pros and cons of imposing such a requirement. They are also considering taking the polar opposite decision of banning businesses from demanding their employees prove they’ve been vaccinated. 

Hakan Nural/Unsplash

The view of other countries

The UK isn’t the first country to grapple with this dilemma. The European Union (EU) plans to introduce a similar Digital Green Pass so their citizens can travel safely within and outside of the EU, in a bid to save their travel industry. This was encouraged by Greece, and espoused by some of its other member states. Although, it isn’t yet set in stone.  

The vaccine certification system is already being trialled in Israel. The country’s Green Pass comes in the form of an app which they released last month. The purpose of the app is to keep track of those who’ve either been vaccinated or have tested negative for the disease.

Israel has since seen its citizens enjoy a semblance of liberty for the first time in a long time. Yet, not all Israelis are so keen on the practice, some are averse to the division it enables because those who hold the Green Pass receive exclusive access to amenities like gyms, hotels, theatres, and concerts, albeit with a few restrictions. There’s also the hassle for under 16-year-olds to provide an up-to-date negative COVID-19 test as an alternative to the vaccine they aren’t eligible for. 

It is controversial. But, the Israeli government remains adamant it is the right way out of lockdown.

John Cameron/Unsplash

Why may it not be a good idea?

However, not every country concurs. For example, Belgium’s Foreign Minister raises ethical concerns given that vaccines aren’t mandatory. She calls for the EU to have “respect for the principle of non-discrimination” on those grounds. 

The UK has similar reservations. The fear is that it will be hard to decipher who is advised not to take it from who simply doesn’t want to. I think the adoption of a vaccine passport may cause resentment within society as it would appear the country is treading onto the path of totalitarianism. 

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has not ruled it out completely and faces opposition.  This opposition is far from baseless. 

Vaccinations are important, but vaccine passports are not. Giving liberty to some people sooner than others seems like a reaction to the restlessness people are showing. Yet, this restlessness was engendered by the government through mixed-messaging and the constant cycle of lockdown, freedom, and back into lockdown. 

The government appears to want to correct their mistakes by giving people what they want, but I think they’d display imprudence if they go ahead with this. They should learn from Israel and consider that by adopting a vaccine passport they risk stoking division. This division will only stir more contempt, and with that, the public’s trust in the government will plummet further. Distrust is something we don’t need any more of to get us through and out of the pandemic.

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