The Corner

Health Care

Vax Passports Are Failing

A new coronavirus passport app on a phone screen in Copenhagen, Denmark May 28, 2021. (Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix/via Reuters)

Israel has scrapped its vaccine passport system, Green Pass, and removed most of its remaining COVID restrictions this week. Reports are that the U.K.’s government is likely to junk its plan for vaccine passports shortly. That leaves the European Union as one of the last holdouts. The European Commission has instructed states to roll out vaccine passports by July 1.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the EU’s effort will also fail. Ultimately, introducing vaccine passports for COVID-19 is not worth the cost of doing so.

First, as vaccines roll out, the danger of COVID spread goes down, even for the unvaccinated. Consequently, vaccine passports — internally or externally — do not facilitate reopening, but confidence in the vaccine itself does. All vaccine passports do is begin excluding the unvaccinated from activities that they had the freedom to do while the pandemic danger was worse than it is now. They become an extension of fear.

Second, because long-term studies on these vaccines cannot have been done, and they are available only on an emergency basis, there are too many people who will remain unvaccinated because it is not available to them, or because they have a good reason not to be. These include, of course, young children. But also some adult women — particularly women who are pregnant or planning to conceive soon — may have a good reason to avoid taking the vaccine for now. For others, the vaccines may turn out to do no good whatsoever, as they are unable to develop the immunity in their T-Cells. Treating them based on their vaccine status would be treating them based on a lie. But thankfully an unnecessary lie.

Vaccine passports or something like them may work for institutions. They might even work for vaccines that have been subject to long-term tests, etc. But they do not do anything to end a pandemic.

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