Vaccine passports are a terrible idea

Vaccine passports are yet another attempt to move the cruel COVID-era goalposts. We were told that lockdown would be a few weeks to alter the curve. Then that we were waiting for a vaccine. Vaccine passports would require an enormous infrastructure, a change of political culture, and approval for use of the vaccine for every living human in the country. Even then it would create a kind of medical apartheid.

The rejoinder — anti-vaxxers deserve to be outcasts — isn’t even responsive. Many people may fail to get the vaccine for a variety of reasons over which they have no control. Vaccine hesitancy is not just a product of rich wealthy white GOOP subscribers, or of white Evangelicals. It’s also a serious impediment to high vaccination rates in the black community and among some immigrant groups. The imposition of a COVID passport would be another avenue for reinforcing precisely the forms of inequality we’re supposed to oppose. Despite their recent successful ventures in an authoritarian society, the NBA isn’t requiring all players get the vaccine — because there is real hesitancy among some players to take it. Do we really think it’s sustainable to expect all their fans to get one if the players do not?

Vaccine passports are a tech-funding bonanza in search of a mandate or social reason. The idea of health passports has been pushed by entrepreneurs in the med-tech community. Last year, a creepy video pushing the idea with the quasi-authoritarian tone of a dictator came from an Irish company, ROQU Group. IBM’s involvement in New York is surely due to its lobbying. Health-passport entrepreneurs hope to be paid by governments, and by private clients.