Vaccine Passports Are Coming, But We’re Not Ready for Them
They may seem like a golden ticket, but it’s more complicated than that
Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 two months ago was a huge relief. As an emergency medicine doctor, it came with the comfort that caring for Covid-19 patients would carry less risk. It also came with a white card proving I’d been vaccinated. I felt certain this small card would be my pass to Big Things. To date, I haven’t yet had to prove my vaccination status. That will soon change.
There’s a growing realization that an official document verifying one’s vaccination status — often referred to as a vaccine passport — will soon be required for certain events and activities.
But let’s collectively hit pause for a second. Vaccine passports may sound like golden tickets. But without fully addressing their limitations and downsides, we risk further marginalizing those who’ve already been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Vaccine passports are certified paper documents or digital apps that prove the holder is vaccinated against Covid-19. By requiring everyone on a plane, in a restaurant, or at a concert to prove they’ve been vaccinated, the Covid risk is negligible. Their promise is alluring and represents a common-sense solution at face value. That’s why they’re rapidly becoming commonplace all over the world.
Last month, the Kingdom of Bahrain updated its BeAware app — initially used for contact tracing and scheduling tests — to include a digital vaccine passport. In China, the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, a similar vaccine passport was rolled out last week in anticipation of international travel. And after closing its borders, Greece announced it would welcome vaccinated tourists starting this summer, thanks to vaccine passports.
But vaccine passports aren’t only for travel. In Israel, where an impressive 50% of the population is now vaccinated, the Green Pass app has allowed restaurants, stadiums, and other long-shuttered venues to safely reopen.