Kaylee McGhee White
The Biden administration is reportedly working with technology and travel companies to develop coronavirus vaccine passports that would show proof of vaccination as the country begins to return to normal. It is not clear how often these credentials would be required, if at all, but at this point we should assume the worst.
Stadiums, concert venues, movie theaters, offices, and even other countries may start requiring proof of vaccination, according to CNN. And that’s just the start. If the federal government pressures private businesses, such as restaurants, to also begin requiring vaccine passports, they will have no choice but to comply. This last year in lockdown has proven as much.
In other words, the federal government is going to make sure our everyday lives are still consumed by the coronavirus pandemic long after the crisis has passed.
The first big problem with this is that the crisis has passed, according to many experts. Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, explained in a recent article that the 70-80% vaccination threshold that public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci keep touting is way off base, because it does not take into consideration the hundreds of thousands of people who have developed natural immunity from prior infection. Already, about 55% of Americans have natural immunity to Covid-19, Makary argued, and another 20% of the population has received the vaccine. Which means we’ve reached Fauci’s threshold already.
If Makary is correct, and several studies suggest that he is, there is no reason to punish people for failing to get a vaccine that many of them do not need. Hundreds of thousands have already developed antibodies to the virus, and the vast majority of Americans who haven’t yet had the coronavirus would be just fine if they did contract it. Moreover, children aren’t even eligible for the vaccine. Would they be banned from public activity under Biden’s new rules?
The federal government can and should encourage vaccinations, especially among vulnerable populations. These vaccines are safe, highly effective, and can guarantee a return to normalcy. But vaccination must remain a choice, or the Biden administration will be dealing with a new kind of crisis that will be sure to backfire.
Millions of Americans are hesitant about these vaccines. And it’s not fair to just dismiss them as anti-vaxxers. Though we have no reason to doubt their safety, it is important to keep in mind that these Covid vaccines didn’t go through the traditional approval process. They were approved for emergency-use authorization only. That doesn’t make them less safe, but it does mean that researchers are still studying their effects, and many Americans are understandably wary of that.
Moreover, the groups of people that tend to be the most hesitant about these vaccines are the groups that need them the most. Black Americans and other minority communities are statistically less likely to seek out vaccines, even though they’ve been hit harder by the coronavirus than most. Forcing these groups to carry around a Covid passport won’t convince them to get the vaccine; it will just make it harder for them to access the public goods they need, thereby reinforcing the inequality the Biden administration claims to oppose.
Biden’s team ought to drop this idea while it still can. Vaccine passports would create further division and cause unnecessary harm. And they would all but guarantee that we’ll never stop playing by coronavirus-era rules, even when the coronavirus is just a thing of the past. But that’s exactly the point of all of this, isn’t it?