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What’s a vaccine passport?

Last week, we found out that our vaccination rollout had been significantly impacted by advice regarding AstraZeneca. Among other things, this change signalled that herd immunity might take longer to reach and that in turn, our borders might take longer to open.

Among the vaccine chatter, the topic of vaccine passports has come about. Some trials have begun all over the globe, and we’re even seeing the first signs of potential vaccine passports here in Australia too. We’ve laid it all out below: 

So what is it? 

It’s a fancy term for proof of vaccination against COVID-19. There are suggestions that it could be in the form of an app or physical certificate. 

In Australia, Qantas has started trials of a digital vaccine passport system, using the app ‘CommonPass’ on a government repatriation flight from Frankfurt to Darwin. The trial is currently being used as proof of a negative test within 72 hours of flying. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has previously suggested that COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory to fly when international borders open for travel. 

It is unclear whether the Australian Government will make the system mandatory for overseas travel, but the Government is reportedly looking into apps to support the system. 

Overseas, the vaccine passport system looks a little different. In the U.S, some states are going beyond international travel and are using the system to get into events and venues. New York was the first state in the U.S. to implement the system for a basketball and baseball game where attendees used an app to show a personalised QR code as proof of their vaccination. 

Israel has already implemented a vaccine passport system that allows citizens to attend gyms and restaurants, and many other countries are considering similar systems. 

What are the benefits? 

Health experts suggest that the vaccine passport system can be a gateway back to normal life. Especially in countries with high rates of COVID-19, the vaccine passport system is a reward for those who get the vaccine to go to events, social gatherings, and potentially international travel. 

It offers peace of mind for those attending events with larger crowds, while also allowing event organisers to ensure the health and safety of their events, making these spaces safer. 

Why are people critical of it? 

First and foremost, there are privacy concerns from critics. If the apps used for the passport are third-party, this health-related information is now in the hands of people outside the health profession, raising ethical concerns. 

We’ve already seen governors from Texas and Florida signing executive orders to ban vaccine passports. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the ban was “necessary to protect the fundamental rights and privacies of Floridians and the free flow of commerce within the state”.

Then there’s also the issue of discrimination. David Archard, the chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, raised concerns around discrimination, and access to vaccines leading some people to miss out on opportunities based on privilege.

What do you think of a vaccine passport system? DM us on Instagram at @thedailyaus.

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