Another Reason to Stop Vaccine Passports

A dose of the BioNTech and Pfizer coronavirus vaccination is given in Mainz, Germany. (BioNTech SE 2020/Handout via Reuters)

There are lots of reasons to push back against the establishment of any kind of bio-surveillance regime in the form of “vaccine passports” at the end of a pandemic. I’ve been trying to cover them the past few weeks.

But I’m surprised left-leaning friends aren’t more sensitive to disparate impact. They normally sense that voter-ID laws, especially those structured to favor driver’s licenses, would have a disparate impact on African Americans and Hispanics. International passport holders would be disproportionately white and upwardly mobile. And we seem to see that black and Hispanic Americans not only show high rates of vaccine hesitancy, but are also more likely to report a lack of knowledge about their eligibility for a COVID vaccine:

If, as I suspect, the rate of transmission drops precipitously with the expansion of vaccines to those who want them, and natural immunity among those who have already endured COVID, then vaccine passports are going to be a needless hurdle for those already disadvantaged. We usually only hustle people into vaccine take-up when they are already engaged with a bureaucratic process like enrolling children in schools or camps, or college, or travel to Brazil. Doing it for a “return to normal life” that many people have already returned to is silly. It would mean expelling people from accommodations they already access, or even jobs that they currently have.

My working theory is that when contemplating vaccine passports, most people are looking for some kind of satisfactory punishment to be given to privileged anti-vaxxers who, depending on their politics, are either progressive wine moms in Marin County Calif., or troglodyte Evangelicals. It’s not going to work that way. But, as we’ve said from the beginning, times of pandemic are times when people look for scapegoats.

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