Why COVID-19 “Vaccine Passports” Could Be a “Pandora’s Box” for Ethics and Data Privacy Issues

Governments and companies are considering a way for people to show that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. So-called “vaccine passports” could help determine who can travel, stay in a hotel, or even visit a bar.

In Israel, people who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine can now get a government-issued “green pass”, which shows their personal details and the dates of their vaccinations. The pass is used to scan and access gyms, hotels and concerts. For more than 3 million Israelis, it is the ticket back to some kind of normalcy.

“At last! All the way in the car, I sing” Come back to life! Let’s get back to reality, “an Israeli aide told CBS News’s Roxana Saberi.

the UK. and other governments, including the United States, are considering similar COVID-19 immunity certificates to revive their tourism, business and hospitality sectors. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his country is carefully considering the option.

“We haven’t had things like this before. We never think in terms of having something to show to go to a pub or to the theater. So there are deep and complex issues that we need to explore.” Johnson said.

Some experts warn of ethical issues, such as possible discrimination against people who do not want a vaccine and those who cannot get it for medical reasons or because there is not enough supply.

Clare Wenham, assistant professor of global health policy at the London School of Economics, says data privacy is another concern.

“Is it going to be something digital that tracks you? And that obviously opens up a completely different range of conversations about the security of your data, for example,” he said.

Despite keen interest in getting back to normal, Wenham said governments should carefully consider potential vaccine passport hurdles before implementing them.

“Governments shouldn’t rush. I think it’s a Pandora’s box and I think it’s a slippery slope for life to be governed by your health,” Wenham said.

As governments debate immunity certificates, companies move on. Some cruise ships and airlines have announced that travelers will need proof of immunization to board.

The World Health Organization told CBS News that it opposes requiring vaccines for travel, as long as the global supply of vaccines is limited and its ability to stop the spread of the virus is not yet clear.


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