I recently had to renew my passport because it had been roughly ten years since the last time I’d done it. For those of you who are new to the whole mandatory identification process for travel, you should be aware that travel passports expire. But what about immunity passports? We’re now living under a new authoritarian regime where the privileged class of vaccinated people with proof of “full vaccination” are granted more basic freedom of movement than the unwashed masses of the unvaccinated. But that type of passport may also hit a very ambiguous and shifting expiration date of its own. At Government Executive, Victoria Knight explains the current debate among politicians and medical experts as to when and how the definition of “fully vaccinated” should be changed. And all signs indicate that the day for that to happen is coming soon, even if all of these alleged experts can’t seem to agree on the way it should happen or even the underlying science supposedly driving the decision.
As more indoor venues require proof of vaccination for entrance and with winter — as well as omicron, a new covid variant — looming, scientists and public health officials are debating when it will be time to change the definition of “fully vaccinated” to include a booster shot.
It’s been more than six months since many Americans finished their vaccination course against covid; statistically, their immunity is waning…
“The definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ has not changed. That’s, you know, after your second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, after your single dose of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” said the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, during Tuesday’s White House briefing on covid. “We are absolutely encouraging those who are eligible for a boost six months after those mRNA doses to get your boost. But we are not changing the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ right now.”
Carefully note Walensky’s use of the phrase “right now” in that last sentence. You shouldn’t need any help translating that. When someone says they aren’t doing something “right now,” it almost always means they plan on doing it later. And in this case, “later” may be coming very quickly.
Up until now, if you had received two shots of either Pfizer or Moderna, you were “fully vaccinated” and were given your easily forged CDC card as proof of having complied with the government’s demands. The same was true if you had been given one shot of J&J. Your CDC card allows you to go to all the places demanding such proof.
But soon your card will “expire” without warning, even though no expiration date is listed on it. When is the third shot required to qualify as being once again “fully vaccinated?” Nobody seems to be sure. The linked article warns us that six months after receiving two mRNA shots, “statistically, your immunity is waning.” We’re also reminded of the arrival of the Omicron variant, though not a single person has died of it yet that I’ve heard of.
The article further informs us that scientists “assume” that the booster shots, “will offer significant protection from the new variant, though they do not know for certain how much.” So Omicron is being used as a new red flag to try to stampede people into getting booster shots despite the fact that medical experts can’t say for sure that it’s even dangerous enough to warrant such action and they have no data telling them whether or not the currently available boosters will be effective in blocking the variant.
These decisions are already being made by people outside of the CDC and the FDA, by the way. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont is quoted as recently saying that anyone who had their vaccinations more than six months ago “is not fully vaccinated.” It’s probably worth noting here that Lamont has never studied medicine. He has a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and an MBA. But hey… if you want to take your potentially critical medical advice from that guy, you do you.
Even if we assume that this change in definitions is coming, how it gets implemented into the immunity passport system is another question. The government has been issuing travel passports for a very long time and they’ve actually gotten pretty good at it. Each one is issued with a clearly understandable expiration date. Emerging technologies have made forging passports extremely difficult. And the information on your passport is easily understood and recognized by the only people who will generally be asking to see the document, usually TSA or border control officials at airports or border crossings.
These CDC cards are a different matter entirely. They often contain scribbled initials and dates on a flimsy piece of cardboard. And they don’t have an expiration date. Anyone seeking to inspect the card will have to be able to determine when you received your last shot and how long it’s been since then. Oh, and the “people” in question are almost never trained. They are bouncers at bars and restaurants or checkout clerks at stores.
But don’t worry. I’m sure this is all going to work out fine. It will be just fine.