Shot in the Arm
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Vaccine Blues Revisited

Vaccine Passports, Tyranny or Common Sense


Last March, I wrote about the Vaccine Blues (So, you received the vaccine. But are you really vaccinated?) Can you reliably prove you are vaccinated with a flimsy, easily forged CDC card? Should we rely on a technology developed over half a century ago? Will other countries accept it? These were some of the questions I grappled with in March, and the answer is turning out to be a resounding NO. Fortunately, my futile search last March for a digital vaccine passport has finally been rewarded with a twenty-first-century response. My pharmacy issued me a digital passport with a scannable QR Code — the passport loads directly into the wallet on my iPhone.

These digital verifications are arriving just in time. Thanks to the efforts of a sizable population of people who want to preserve their right to an early death, and the surge of new COVID variants, we are reaching some societal breakpoints. As crazy as it sounds, some of the vaccinated don’t want to mingle with the unvaccinated, and countries are responding.

An EU vaccine passport is on its way. Implementation is occurring within the twenty-seven member nations. Additionally, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein are also onboard. EU citizens can download their vaccine passports or obtain paper copies.

Maintaining its cultural distinction, France has gone a step further and implemented a genuine French Health Pass allowing people to access restaurants, bars, planes, and trains. These passports are issued if you are fully vaccinated, tested negative for COVID, or have recently recovered from a COVID infection.

Citizens of the United Kingdom are, of course, not able to access the EU Vaccine Passport. Their recent populous temper tantrum called Brexit, when they took their toys and went home, means they need to develop a UK version of the vaccine passport. Evidently, this entry ticket will be in the form of the NHS COVID Pass app. The rumor is, Boris will make full vaccination a requirement for entry into nightclubs. The ploy is, vaccine reluctance will play second fiddle to the desire of the UK’s young adults for alcohol-fueled mingling with potential romantic partners.

As with any nascent initiative, bumps in the road sometimes occur. Reportedly, the Netherlands CoronaCheck app collapsed within hours of its introduction. Clever young people found ways to use their friend’s negative test results to obtain the pass and go clubbing. Alcohol and sex are powerful incentives to either get the vaccine or figure out how to cheat the system. Add this to the reluctance of club bouncers to check vaccine passports against a second form of ID, and you have a recipe for failure.

We shouldn’t take this failure too hard. Failure is an inevitable part of the trial and error process that we must endure if we want to defend people’s right not to be infected with a virus they don’t want and are actively trying to avoid. The main point is, progress is being made.

It’s not unreasonable to note that fully vaccinated people are protected, so why should they worry? This question has two answers. The first is the Delta variant. This particular incarnation of the virus has cleverly found a way to infect the vaccinated. The vaccine still offers strong protection against severe disease, but what about the next variant being nurtured in our wide and deep pool of anti-vaxxers and the blissfully ignorant. The second answer is vulnerable family and friends. Let’s remember, children are largely unvaccinated, and family members with compromised immune systems remain open to infection. Now, with the Delta variant, the vaccinated can still transmit the infection.

Vaccine Passports are not Coercion

Somehow there is a mistaken belief that allowing the use of vaccine passports as an entry restriction for certain venues constitutes a violation of people’s rights. It’s difficult to follow this argument. Avowed nudists are still not allowed to enter most public restaurants unclothed, despite their devotion to their naked rights. Many public buildings will not allow me to enter barefooted, and McDonald’s certainly wouldn’t let me come to work barefooted. If I choose not to wear shoes, I have made a conscious decision to exercise my rights, but I also must accept the consequences.

I’m a strong believer in individual rights, and I would not support mandating vaccinations. Likewise, I respect the decision of those who have been vaccinated and recognize their right to seek spaces where they are free as possible from exposure to the virus. We should all be able to go into healthcare facilities and expect those treating us to be virus-free. My right to drive a car does not automatically give me the right to drive it in a manner that endangers those around me. My freedom to refuse a vaccine does not give me the right to infect others.

Retail stores, restaurants, bars, and other such public venues certainly have the right to restrict access based on vaccination status. I won’t argue with Tennessee Pastor Greg Locke, who said mask-wearing people are not allowed in his church. It wouldn’t bother me if he declared no vaccinated people were allowed in his church. I have exercised my right to wear a mask in public and my right to be vaccinated. Accordingly, I am happy to live with the consequences of my decision. Hopefully, he is mature enough to accept responsibility for his decisions and won’t use public spaces where masks are required.

The truth is, vaccine passports make a lot of sense when we give people the right to make their own decisions. The passports provide a way for us all to exercise our rights and not interfere with other people’s rights. I agree not to go to Greg’s Church, and he agrees not to go to my favorite passported restaurant.

How Effective are the Vaccine Passports?

We don’t know at this point. We are not far enough along to see how things play out when access to some areas is restricted based on our vaccination status. But perhaps some indications are emerging. As I write, Florida is setting new records with respect to COVID hospitalizations. The State is now leading the nation in per capita COVID hospitalizations. So, the question is, how has Florida dealt with COVID? Let’s hear from Ron.

(Excerpt from) STATE OF FLORIDA OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR EXECUTIVE ORDER NUMBER 21–81 (Prohibiting COVID-19 Vaccine Passports)

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RON DESANTIS, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section 1 (a) of the Florida Constitution and by the Florida Emergency Management Act, as amended, and all other applicable laws, promulgate the following Executive Order:

Section 1. No Florida government entity, or its subdivisions, agents, or assigns, shall be permitted to issue vaccine passports, vaccine passes, or other standardized documentation for the purpose of certifying an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status to a third party, or otherwise publish or share any individual’s COVID-19 vaccination record or similar health information.

Section 2. Businesses in Florida are prohibited from requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business.

Of course, one partisan executive order from an aspiring 2024 presidential contender, along with an unfolding health disaster, doesn’t prove cause and effect. But, on the other hand, it’s certainly not encouraging.

The problem with the Florida prohibition is that it only offers one-sided protection of individual rights. The right to avoid the consequences of your decision, as an unvaccinated citizen, is elevated over another person’s right to protect themselves and their family from infection.

Around the world, vaccine passports are emerging as a tool for protecting public health. They don’t say you must be vaccinated. They simply provide a framework for decision-making. The lack of full vaccination status restricts your access to spaces where you pose a public health risk.

Ultimately these passports could provide an ideal compromise between conflicting interests. Freedom to choose is preserved, and the responsibility to live with the consequences of your personal decision is clearly delineated and enforced. If a business, like Pastor Greg’s, wants to block vaccinated people from entry, they should have the right to do so, and visa-versa.

I’m happy with this direction, even though it still does not answer my original question of whether my digital vaccine passport will be accepted when I deboard during my next international vacation. As stated in my original article in March, I need to wait and see.


Related Articles by WM House:

Vaccine Blues (by WM House; Medium)


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For reflections on life’s journey and thoughts on the Tao Te Ching read: In Search of a Path

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Sources:

Covid passports could work — but coercion is doomed to fail (By Melinda Mills; The Guardian)

Canada fines two travelers nearly $20K over false Covid information (by Marnie Hunter; CNN)

Covid passports: How do they work around the world? (Source: BBC News)

Feature Image: The Shot (Modified by ArcheanWeb) Original Credit: By SELF Magazine — Woman receiving a shot in her upper arm, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

William House
William is an earth scientist and writer with an interest in providing the science "backstory" for breaking environmental, earth science, and climate change news.