Vaccine passports have become the latest flashpoint in America’s ongoing political wars. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Vaccine Passports
Mark Scolforo, writing for AP, reports: “Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine have become the latest flash point in America’s perpetual political wars, with Republicans portraying them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices. The argument over whether passports are a sensible response to the pandemic or governmental overreach echoes the bitter disputes over the past year about masks, shutdown orders and even the vaccines themselves.” Here’s what both sides are saying about the issue:
On The Left
The left generally views COVID passports as both inevitable and desirable. They point out that the private sector is actually leading the charge, not the government.
Froma Harrop points out in RealClear Politics that the Biden administration actually says that “there will be no federal database showing who has gotten the shots” and “no one will be forced to get vaccinated.” To Harrop, “the police state has not arrived.” Nonetheless, she insists that such a passport would still be acceptable by today’s standards, citing Florida which currently “requires proof of vaccination for any child attending school.” She also points to African countries where travelers “must show a card indicating they’ve been vaccinated against yellow fever.” Furthermore, she argues, the vaccine passport “originated in the private sector,” not from the federal government and so “if restaurants can post a sign reading: “No shirt. No Shoes. No Service,” there’s no reason why they can’t say, “No Shots. No Service.”
Also in RealClear Politics, Tim Hains quotes cartoonist Scott Adams who insists that “all of civilization is built on restricting your freedom” and “this is just another” example. In the article, Scott Adams is responding to liberal feminist author Naomi Wolf who is warning of a “slippery slope” when governments start making databases of their citizen’s highly personal information. Adams rebukes Wolf’s comparison of the passport to China’s Orwellian social credit system, writing that we’re “already in a social credit system in the United States,” using financial credit scoring as an example.
Lastly, The Kansas City Star Editorial Board argues that vaccination passports are “not political” but rather “about smart public health policy.” They make their case by pointing out that we need to have car insurance and a driver’s license to drive on public roads. They also echo Harrop’s argument above that “children are required to be vaccinated before attending public school.” They say the passport push is primarily being driven by the private sector, not the government, citing a local company, Cerner, which is creating “a secure digital [identification] system that would allow people to show proof of vaccination to enter public spaces.” As the editorial board sees it, “once businesses start turning away folks who don’t have proof of vaccination, it seems inevitable that some type of statewide digitized proof of vaccination credential will be needed.” Ultimately, their state “Missouri is going to have to join the world club on this one, or just be left out.”
One way or another, the left is expecting and embracing vaccine passports, which they view as necessary for ensuring public health.
On The Right
Conservatives view vaccine passports as a frightening violation of our right to privacy. They also think passports are unnecessary and likely to do more harm than good by further undermining confidence in our public health bureaucracies.
Harmeet K. Dhillon lambastes vaccine passports in The Federalist, writing that they have “quickly turned from savior…into a cudgel with which to beat the vaccine heterodox into submission.” Dhillon questions why it was such a national outrage when Arizona legislated proof of citizenship, and now when ID is required to vote, but perfectly acceptable — desirable even — to demand proof of vaccination when “exercising basic rights like traveling.” To Dhillon, this is not about public health since “we are on track to achieve herd immunity in our country…through voluntary vaccination.” Instead, this policy originates from “an elite fixated upon” a form of “vaccination apartheid affecting every aspect of our freedoms in society.” She urges Americans not to “so lightly give up their liberty for commercial expediency, elite orthodoxy, or even illusory notions of safety.” If we acquiesce to this now, “what downward ratchet on liberty will the next crisis bring?”
Harvard and Stanford professors Martin Kulldorff and Jay Bhattacharya argue in The Wall Street Journal that “COVID vaccine passports would harm, not benefit, public health.” They make the case that vaccines, in general, make sense for some populations, such as old and immunocompromised, but not for others, such as the young, healthy, or already immune via previous exposure. “The idea that everybody needs to be vaccinated,” they write, “is as scientifically baseless as the idea that nobody does.” The duo strongly believes in vaccines, generally, which they call “one of the most important inventions in human history.” They warn that overzealous measures may lead the public to “start questioning vaccines in general.” Since “effective public health relies on trust,” they conclude, “public health professionals have the potential to be ‘more dangerous than the small group of so-called anti-vaxxers have ever been.”
In Fox News, J.D. Vance concurs with the warning that the vaccine passport risks further undermining confidence in our public health professionals. He points out that, despite the unknown risk with this experimental new technology, he will take the vaccine based on his own risk and reward calculation. However, he will not give it to his children because “the risk of COVID to children is very low.” Instead of mandates, Vance believes we should “carve out space for families to make these critical decisions themselves.” Vance also reiterates the idea that “some people mistrust these new vaccines because they mistrust our public health and political leadership” who have “been wrong, sometimes catastrophically” for well over a year now. Vance proposes that our leaders “might consider humility and persuasion rather than corporate mandates.”
In vaccine passports, the right sees an unnecessary infringement on privacy rights that would endanger collective trust in our public health infrastructure, all just to scratch the left’s authoritarian itch.
Flag This: Vaccine Passports
According to a Morning Consult poll conducted April 2-4, “63% of adults support making digital vaccination certification available, while 46% would be in favor of requiring vaccinated people to carry them.” Meanwhile, 42% are against requiring vaccination passports and 12% are undecided. As to how far they’d go, 36% would allow businesses to bar unvaccinated patrons, while 53% oppose that idea and 11% are undecided. While there seems to be support for digital vaccination certification, Americans are split as to whether and where those passports should be required.
Do you think COVID-19 vaccine passports are necessary? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts.