The next major flash point over coronavirus response has already provoked cries of tyranny and discrimination in Britain, protests in Denmark, digital disinformation in the United States and geopolitical skirmishing within the European Union.
The subject of debate: vaccine passports — government-issued cards or smartphone badges stating that the bearer has been inoculated against the coronavirus.
The idea is to allow families to reunite, economies to restart and hundreds of millions of people who have received a shot to return to a degree of normalcy, all without spreading the virus. Some versions of the documentation might permit bearers to travel internationally. Others would allow entry to vaccinated-only spaces like gyms, concert venues and restaurants.
While such passports are still hypothetical in most places, Israel became the first to roll out its own last week, capitalizing on its high vaccination rate. Several European countries are considering following. President Biden has asked federal agencies to explore options. And some airlines and tourism-reliant industries and destinations expect to require them.
wrote in Scientific American. But with vaccines distributed unequally by race, class and nationality, “it is not obvious that they are ethical.”
Still, there are clear upsides: grandparents reuniting with out-of-town grandchildren; sports, concerts and other events partly but safely returning; resumption of international travel and some tourism; businesses reopened without putting workers at undue risk.
All of that is why, Drs. Hassoun and Herlitz wrote, vaccine documents “may be inevitable.”
Widening Society’s Divides
Some countries require proof of vaccination — for example, against yellow fever — to enter. So do schools and day-care facilities in many American states.
higher rates. In Western countries, those communities tend to be white and well-off.
This evokes an uncomfortable image: professional-class white people disproportionately allowed into shops, baseball games and restaurants, with people of color and members of the working classes disproportionately kept out. If workplaces require proof of vaccination, it could tilt employment as well.
“If vaccines become a passport to doing different things, we’re going to see the communities that have been already hardest hit by Covid being left behind,” said Nicole A. Errett, a University of Washington public health expert.