Governments worldwide are rolling out vaccine passports or certificates showing proof of vaccination for COVID-19. While the models differ from country to country the idea is generally the same – to require the population to obtain paper or digital documentation in order to participate in society. It is a serious form of coercion that will ultimately create a two-tiered caste-like society in which many are unjustifiably persecuted and discriminated against, with economic impacts that could devastate millions of Americans whose livelihoods are already suffering or gone from the multi-year lockdowns.
The Biden administration is presently working with private-sector technology companies to develop a vaccine passport model. Although the United States and other governments are touting these as vital tools to restore normalcy and allow countries to reopen safely, the passports are coming under intense scrutiny by medical ethicists and others alarmed by the breach of privacy and informed consent.
Vaccine passports are actually being tested right now. Despite concerns from public health experts that passports would harm communities already affected by COVID, the state of New York recently began a pilot program known as Excelsior developed in partnership with IBM. This is only one of nearly 20 vaccine passport initiatives underway in the U.S. according to the Washington Post that will be required to work, travel, use public transportation, attend school, shop or dine out.
It’s unacceptable to restrict the rights of individuals based on their personal health decisions or vaccine status. It’s even more egregious to discriminate against those who refuse to receive an experimental vaccine that’s not even FDA approved, has documented safety concerns, and for which there is basically no recourse in the event of injury or death.
According to the ACLU, which has publicly stated that it’s firmly against vaccine passports because of their vast potential for harm, it’s altogether different for an employee to voluntarily disclose his or her COVID-19 status to an employer on a one-off basis than it is to collect and retain information. The use of passports could exacerbate racial disparities, harming workers of color and people with disabilities in particular. Other privacy concerns exist around the possibility of additional contract tracing measures as well as the potential by authorities to invade homes and seize individuals and family members.
Despite the positive headlines and corporate talking points that are circulating, vaccine passports are being met with harsh criticism by medical ethicists and others concerned with human rights abuses and violations of privacy rights and informed consent rights. Not only would these passports erode personal choice, health freedom, privacy and our basic Constitutional rights, they will usher in a totalitarian regime reminiscent of the Jim Crow era, Apartheid and Nazism.
Very simply, the passports violate federal laws that were put in place to specifically protect people against unjust treatment and discrimination, including disability protections. Moreover, they are illegal. According to federal regulations (45 CFR 46), it’s illegal to force, mandate, coerce or incentivize participation in an ongoing clinical trial. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are still in clinical trial until their estimated completion in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
However, that hasn’t stopped public and private entities from promoting their use or trying to tie various privileges to vaccination. In July 2020, Johns Hopkins issued a report urging local and state public health agencies to explore bundling vaccination with other safety net services such as food security assistance, rent assistance and free clinic services that are already being provided to vulnerable populations.
Vaccine passports will not only threaten our privacy, they would be a significant step toward a system of national digital identification that could easily be used to collect and store our personal information and track our every move. One only has to look at China to see the future.
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“Nazis created exactly what ‘Vaccine Passports’ explicitly promise: separation of society into two tiers: the ‘clean’ (privileged, with access) and ‘unclean’ (restricted, stigmatized, and marginalized). There is no going back once this platform unrolls; no escape.” Naomi Wolf, former Clinton policy adviser