The United States under the Joe Biden administration is developing a system for Americans to prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19, colloquially referred to as a “vaccine passports”. The “vaccine passport” will potentially serve as proof of vaccination for people as they engage in various activities due to more businesses opening up.
According to a senior Biden admin official, multiple agencies are involved in the planning of this system. The planning is coordinated by the White House, with the system is set to play a huge in multiple aspects of people’s lives, including the workforce.
Many business groups, including airlines and travel sectors, were lobbying the Biden administration in order to get the ball rolling on developing some sort of vaccine credentials. The business groups believe that vaccine credentials, more commonly known as a “vaccine passport”, straight from the U.S. Federal Government will nip any confusing regional vaccine certifications in the bud.
Some U.S. officials see the “vaccine passport” as a look into the world of the future, where international travel, public entertainment, and other social events will all be contingent upon getting vaccinated and having proper documentation. However, this raises a moral and ethical dilemma concerning the lack of inclusion of unvaccinated people, whether it be because of poverty or other reasons.
There are already some forms of private “vaccine passports” in existence. The International Air Transport Association, a trade group comprising of global airlines, is testing their own version called “Travel Pass”. The American tech giant IBM also utilizes its own version, which allows people from New York to download proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. It is a mobile app that uses a secure QR code that can either be printed out or stored in smartphones.
The initiative to develop “vaccine passports” is not a U.S.-only phenomenon, with the European Union coming out in favor of it. On 17 March 2021, the European Commission proposed the creation of a “Digital Green Certificate” which will serve as an instrument to facilitate safe and free movement within the EU in midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are some fears that this “vaccine passport” can later be used not just as an instrument of facilitating travel, but also to regulate day-to-day work like engaging in commerce, admission to various businesses, etc.
In light of the development of the U.S. “vaccine passport”, which will potentially be used by businesses and corporations to serve as a certificate to allow or disallow people to their services, the concern regarding vaccine passports is not unwarranted. There are concerns of disadvantaged people losing their ability to functionally interact with a society which stresses upon proof of vaccination. However, it remains to be seen exactly what effect will a government backed, all encompassing vaccine passport have in terms of restricting the access of people to goods and services.