The scientific and ethical problems with vaccine passports.
The Biden Administration issued an executive order that, among other things, called on federal agencies to “assess the feasibility of linking COVID-19 vaccination to International Certificates of Vaccination Prophylaxis (ICVPs) and producing electronic versions of ICVPs.” This adds to fears that those who choose not to be vaccinated will have many privileges closed to them.
Our friends at ANH-International have demonstrated the scientific problems with vaccine passports. Presumably, vaccine passports are aimed at determining whether a person is capable of transmitting the virus. But there are too many unknowns to make this a tenable strategy. For example, Phase III trials on these vaccines have not yet been completed, and their endpoints don’t even include transmissibility. We simply don’t know how much protection is conferred by vaccination, for how long, and to whom.
Some private companies like airlines also accept negative tests, but molecular diagnostics like PCR tests are prone to false negatives and positives. Antibody tests are another option, but we still don’t know the duration over which antibodies are raised, throwing the accuracy of these tests in doubt as well.
There are also ethical considerations to conferring rights to those who receive experimental vaccines versus those who don’t. As ANH-International writes:
People should not be coerced into medical treatments or testing in order to qualify for basic human rights, particularly in groups at low risk of any ill effects of covid-19, but also as a general principle. Any form of coercion is against the principle of medically informed consent.
An advisor to the White House coronavirus team said that the government will not create or mandate a vaccine passport, but will provide guidance to the private sector, which we already know is seriously considering—and in some cases has already promised to implement—vaccination as a requirement for air travel. Most cruises require vaccination. National governments are in the process of updating their policies for admitting overseas travelers. Most countries so far accept proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test.
The use of vaccine passports goes beyond international travel. Governor Cuomo of New York recently announced the launch of a free app that will allow businesses to scan a code to confirm whether someone was vaccinated or tested negative for COVID. Other states may follow suit. The governors of Texas and Florida, however, have banned vaccine passports in their states.
California has taken it a step further; the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the US, has mandated the COVID vaccine as a condition of employment. Currently, LAUSD is being sued in federal court for requiring an experimental vaccine, since current COVID vaccines have only received emergency use authorizations rather than full FDA approval. Rutgers University was the first American college to require COVID vaccines for on-campus courses; the list of colleges following suit is growing by the day.
Everyone should keep in mind that COVID vaccines are experimental and have not been fully approved by health authorities. The CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Database lists nearly 57,000 adverse events reported following vaccination against COVID. Should special privileges be conferred to those who sign up for treatments given these risks?
We will keep you abreast of developments regarding vaccine passports. See if your state is listed below and take action to support choice in your state.