Experts Debate on Potential COVID-19 Vaccination Passports

Just after the one year anniversary of a nation-wide shutdown on March 13, 2020, the United States continues to strive for the light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are being sent out and distributed to greater groups of people, part of the plan for herd immunization. As the world prepares to open its doors once again, a new concern poses a question: do we need vaccine passports?

Termed as “vaccine passports”, health experts have debated on how to track which travelers have received the vaccine and which have not. As ethical courtesy, global leaders are emphasizing to tighten traveling mandates, in efforts of finally containing the virus once and for all.

From John Torres, a NBC News senior medical correspondent, he explains about a potential future of vaccine passports, along with the unknown after effects. Dr. Torres, who plans on traveling internationally to Belgium, notes that his vaccination card, officially issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would not be sufficient verification as “the cards are too easy to forge”. Forgery and illegal dealing of such potential vaccine cards pose another consequence of this plan, questioning authenticity. As of right now, no country has issued any official vaccine passports aside from the vaccination receipts from health centers.

Dr. Torres expresses his concern for the innate segregation of people between who “have” and “have not”. Alongside Dr. Torres, Dr. Mike Ryan, director of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s emergencies program, said “using vaccine certification as a requirement for travel is not advised”, as this could result in division with ethical considerations.

On the other hand, vaccine certification exists for other fatal diseases such as yellow fever, used for appropriate countries. As a result, some countries around the world are preparing “proof of vaccination” cards. For example, the European union plans to release a “digital green pass” that will then present any current information on the occupant’s health status along with vaccination and recovery status. Other countries such as Iceland, Poland, Portugal, and Cyprus are following as well. In addition, Qantas Airways, Australia’s representative airline, began its trial on the CommonPass online mobile app, a way to display negative COVID-19 tests and vaccination statuses for international travel.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is debating on nonessential travel, as many families are reaching summer break, itching to leave their confined rooms; however, a spokesperson said travel will be regulated though she declined to say whether a vaccine passport would be issued in time. Currently, this leaves the CDC issued vaccine cards as people’s only source as verification.

Ultimately, the novel COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting impact on our world. To be remembered in history books, nearly all aspects of our lives have been affected. As we reach what we hope to be the final stretch, we must consider what we are willing to sacrifice and at what costs. Will this pandemic become a part of our identity as well: vaccinated or not?

Photo by Lukas on Unsplash


Categories: Clinical