Op-ed pushes for COVID ‘immunity passports’ for Americans to shop, travel

An op-ed published by the Washington Post last week argues that in order to “safely” reopen the U.S. economy amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, government should require Americans to obtain “immunity passports.”

The idea, which is being panned as overly oppressive and authoritarian, was pushed by Aaron Schwid, director of public health law at Vital Strategies, and Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Obama and president and chief executive of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies.

“With the authorization of a second effective vaccine against the coronavirus, we can imagine an end to the pandemic, like voyagers on a ship seeing the safety of shore,” they wrote Dec. 21.

“But it will take many months before we reach the end of this perilous journey, and the public is increasingly losing patience with broad restrictions on day-to-day life. So as more and more people are vaccinated, it’s time to carefully design a system of ‘immunity passports,’” the pair added.

Schwid and Frieden, the latter of whom pleaded guilty to sex abuse allegations last year, said the passports would be a “proof of immunity” thus allowing those who have them “to engage in some activities others cannot.”

It’s likely that any vaccine passport mandate would be challenged on its constitutionality.

Nevertheless, the authors point out that “versions” of the passports “already exist,” in that movement between some countries requires travelers to exhibit proof they have been vaccinated for yellow fever. In addition, they say that proof of vaccination is required in most of the United States before youngsters can attend public school.

“Immunity passports for covid-19 — although controversial for scientific, practical and ethical reasons — are already being developed. We need minimum standards to get this right,” they wrote.

The pair then discussed the “need” for “practical and universal standards to verify who has been vaccinated,” noting further that the U.S. “currently uses a paper-based system (upon receiving the vaccine, people receive a coronavirus vaccination record card with basic information on it) with a few security features that could serve as a trustworthy, official certificate.”

But that could be solved by merely going “digital,” Schwid and Frieden argued.

“Technology can solve some of these issues. Recipients can opt for a digital certificate in some jurisdictions, but this creates its own challenges,” the wrote, adding, “[t]he personal data collected raise privacy and security concerns, and the potential for misuse of data could dissuade some people from getting vaccinated.”

The pair concluded on an Orwellian note, NewsBusters pointed out.

“As vaccination is rolled out and we learn more about immunity after natural infection, providing the option of an immunity passport to those who choose to receive one can increase freedom of movement for passport holders and accelerate broader social and economic recovery,” the pair wrote. As universal vaccination becomes available, passports will help everyone, not just the lucky few, move from fear to freedom.” (Emphasis added)

In late November, Fox News reported that the International Air Transport Association was working on finalizing a digital virus passport that would contain “a traveler’s COVID-19 testing and vaccinations that would be verified by labs, airlines and government agencies.”

And CNN reported Monday that as coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out, several companies are working to develop digital COVID passports that can be accessed by venue operators before allowing persons inside.

“The Common Trust Network, an initiative by Geneva-based nonprofit The Commons Project and the World Economic Forum, has partnered with several airlines including Cathay Pacific, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, as well as hundreds of health systems across the United States and the government of Aruba,” CNN reported.

“The CommonPass app created by the group allows users to upload medical data such as a Covid-19 test result or, eventually, a proof of vaccination by a hospital or medical professional, generating a health certificate or pass in the form of a QR code that can be shown to authorities without revealing sensitive information,” the network added.


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