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Covid‑19 Vaccination Certificates: Prospects and Problems

Posted by nte on March 10, 2021 in In Print

Kofler N, & Baylis F. (10 Mar 2021). Covid-19 vaccination certificates: Prospects and problems. The Hastings Center Bioetics Forum Essay.

In the early days of the pandemic, Covid-19 immunity passports were proposed as a useful tool to allow some individuals to return to work, shopping, cultural events, and travel. These passports were to be issued to those presumed immune to Covid-19 because they had either recovered from the disease or could prove they had previously been infected by testing for circulating antibodies.

Immunity passports were to help reopen economies and allow individuals to resume normal activities under the presumption that those with a passport were no longer a threat to others and could therefore be exempt from Covid-19 public health measures.

From the beginning we argued that immunity passports were scientifically unsound and ethically perilous. We noted a lack of robust scientific evidence about how Covid-19 immunity worked, and drew attention to serious ethical concerns about privacy, the potential for discrimination, and the risk of exacerbating existing social inequities.

Now, with limited distribution of vaccines with varying degrees of efficacy there is renewed interest in immunity passports; more accurately described as vaccination certificates.  Israel is leading the pack. With more than 40% of its population fully vaccinated, it has started to reopen its economy, relying on its self-styled Green Pass. Those who have been fully inoculated with a vaccine or who can prove they have recovered from an infection with SARS-CoV2 are free to return to movie theatres, gyms, and their vacations in Greece. Those without government-validated certification cannot. Other countries, including the United StatesChinaCanada, and the United Kingdom, and the European Union are now considering some kind of similar program.

With Covid-19 vaccines now in the arms of some but not othersit’s as if everything and nothing has changed. Indeed, there is a growing chorus of people suggesting that vaccination certificates are inevitable.

This suggestion is accurate...