What role could vaccine passports play in the pandemic? | Coronavirus pandemic news – tech2.org

What role could vaccine passports play in the pandemic? | Coronavirus pandemic news

After months of costly closures, closed borders, and restricted personal freedoms, the concept of vaccine passports is gaining traction among governments eager to chart their way through the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several countries, including Bahrain and China, have already implemented their own forms of certification apparently aimed at facilitating future international travel or reviving activity in the most affected economic sectors, such as hospitality.

Several others are weighing whether to follow suit and embrace the idea of ​​documentation for those who have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, skeptics warn that a number of wide-ranging potential adverse effects still need to be addressed.

Here is what you need to know:

What is a vaccine passport?

A vaccine passport can be broadly defined as a document that shows that someone has been inoculated against a virus, in this case SARS-CoV-2, also known as the new coronavirus.

It could take the form of a signed and stamped certificate or a quick response (QR) code stored on a smartphone.

Israel has released a government-validated certificate, known as a ‘Green Pass’, through which people can demonstrate that they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. [File: Jack Guez/AFP]

The documents could be needed for a variety of activities, from international travel to gaining admission to theaters and restaurants, Dave Archard, chairman of the UK’s Nuffield Bioethics Council, told Al Jazeera.

The vaccination test could also become a “discriminatory” employment condition, he warned, or lead to a “two-tier society” in which people need documentation to exercise certain social freedoms, such as accessing public spaces or traveling internally within of the countries.

Why are they arguing?

With massive COVID-19 vaccination campaigns progressing apace in several countries, vaccine passports have gained prominence as a potential tool to safely reopen borders for international travel and boost economic sectors devastated by strict lockdown restrictions. .

In theory, the ability to show proof of vaccination could offer a tipping point in the pandemic, allowing countries to welcome mass vaccinated visitors and worst-affected businesses, particularly those operating in hospitality, to resume the trade without fear of the virus.

In reality, however, there are outstanding questions about how these documents would work in practice and pressing concerns about their potential to exacerbate inequalities, erode privacy, and possibly even hamper efforts to curb COVID-19.

Where and how are they used?

Several countries have already released their own versions of passports or vaccine certificates, despite the lack of global consensus on their use.

Israel, for example, has released a government-validated certificate, known as a Green Pass, which allows people to show proof that they have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 and thus presume immunity.

The passes, which can be printed or stored on a smartphone, are valid for six months from the time of complete vaccination. They allow incumbents to participate in a variety of activities that would otherwise be restricted, such as going to the gym, dining at restaurants, or attending a theatrical performance, albeit with some limits.

The certificate could also allow holders to travel abroad and avoid quarantine requirements. Israel has already signed an agreement with Greece and Cyprus that allows citizens with COVID-19 vaccination certificates to travel unhindered between the three countries.

The debate on vaccine passports has fueled the international launch of COVID-19 vaccines [File: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters]

China has also introduced its own vaccine passport form in the form of a certificate that shows a person’s vaccination status and COVID-19 test results.

It is intended as a digital product, but is also available on paper and is being rolled out “to help promote global economic recovery and facilitate cross-border travel,” according to the country’s foreign ministry.

Bahrain has launched a similar product, while Denmark and Sweden are preparing to implement their own certification schemes. The European Union is considering a block-wide digital certificate that provides proof of vaccination, which could make it easier for Europeans to travel in the warmer months ahead.

What are the benefits and risks?

Proponents of vaccine passports argue that they can be used to help safely resume massive international travel and unlock frozen economies.

Indeed, by proving that someone has been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, vaccine passports in theory indicate that an individual is not a potential vector for the virus or is not at risk of contracting it.

“They say that you are no longer a danger and that gives you certain privileges that you would not have if you were a danger. So having vaccine passports makes sense from that perspective, “US economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner, told Al Jazeera.

“But unless we can make sure everyone has access to vaccines, it introduces a major inequity.”

Stiglitz’s warning is one of the most pressing concerns raised by skeptics of vaccine passports, namely that the huge global inequality in access to doses means that any implementation of the certification would, in turn, unfairly discriminate against those in nations with fewer vaccine supplies.

Even if doses are more uniformly available globally, the current range of vaccines being used and their different efficacy rates, meanwhile, reduces the possibility that any kind of uniform certification will be created, Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London. he told Al Jazeera.

“We have billions of people who in a variable way have not had access to any vaccine, or vaccines in different countries that have an immunogenicity and [have been] tested in markedly different antibody tests. How can this make an international documentation system suitable for everyone? ” he said.


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