Who Needs Vaccination Passports?

It should come as no surprise that the Biden administration is promoting vaccine passports.  In his March address to the nation, Biden announced “in the coming weeks, we will issue further guidance on what you can and cannot do once fully vaccinated” making clear that a return to normalcy depends on one’s vaccination status. If liberties are reinstated for the vaccinated, then it only stands to reason that they will not be reinstated for the unvaccinated.

Apart from the obvious hypocrisy of pushing COVID-19 vaccination passports while pushing back even harder against voter IDs, mandatory vaccinations and vaccine passports hit hard at the privacy and liberty interests of all Americans and warrant a robust national conversation.  As part of that conversation, naysayers must be prepared to respond to the question of why people are reluctant to comply with mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations and vaccination passports, but willingly vaccinate their children for common childhood diseases and provide schools with the required documents?

The battery of vaccinations kids receive in order to attend school are targeted to those highest at risk (the children) -- not the entire population, as with COVID.  The proof required is strictly for the  purpose of going to school -- not for every activity in our lives, as with COVID. 

COVID-19 kills less than 0.1% of children up to 17 years and .1% between 18 and 24. The survival rates are 99.997% for 0-19; 99.98% for 20-49; 99.5% for 50-69; and 94.6 % for those over 70.  As of December 2020, COVID killed 654 children and young adults, with 476 of these in the 18-24 age group.  To date, there are no known long-lasting, debilitating side effects that can be linked to Covid-19.

In contrast, measles killed about 2.6 million annually; from 1964 to 1965, rubella caused 11,000 miscarriages, killed 2,100 newborns, and left 20,000 babies with Congenital Rubella Syndrome; before the vaccine, polio disabled more than 35,000 people annually; and the case fatality rate for respiratory diphtheria is 5-10% and up to 20% in children under five and adults over 40. 

Is it really consistent with science and sound public health policy to forcibly vaccinate healthy children and healthy young adults against COVID-19? 

In a digitized world where our entire lives are online, giving this kind of power to the government or large corporations resonates in uncomfortable ways.  Perhaps the unvaccinated won’t actually don a visible scarlet or yellow U on their lapels, but the effect is the same -- they will be tracked and treated differently than the vaccinated; restricted, marginalized, ostracized, and dehumanized as “the other.” 

Will they be digitally tagged so employers can discriminate in hiring them?  So lenders and landlords can redline and bar them from living in COVID-free neighborhoods? Such ponderings wouldn’t ring so outlandish if we weren’t living in the Woke Ages where bizarre, un-American things keep happening.  Ordinary people lose jobs, friends, social status, and their online communities because of bigoted comments they made as kids, because they are white, because they refuse to submit to the BLM agenda or Critical Race Theory, or simply for challenging gender demands that defy science.  It is not implausible that law-abiding, community-conscious individuals might worry about losing their jobs and freedoms for refusing to put a chemical substance into their bodies or rejecting a vaccine passport.

People are not wary of passport edicts because of some unfounded dystopian hysteria.  For over a year, they’ve been subjected to a dizzying amount of expert advice and official guidance with an equally dizzying number of reversals and qualifications.  They simply don’t trust the so-called experts who continuously move the goalposts, talk in nonsensical circles, and silence competing viewpoints not from quacks, but from distinguished epidemiologists and immunologists, medical and public health policy experts, and doctors in the field.     

Nor is rank paranoia to blame for a legitimate and genuine fear that COVID Refuseniks might suffer life-altering repercussions as they wade through the morass of inconsistent information and try to sort out what is best for their families.

Not only has science been defenestrated and legitimate concernsdismissed, so has rational thought.  Assuming the vaccines are indeed efficacious, why are vaccinated individuals afraid to socialize with the unvaccinated?  They can neither give it to nor catch it from the unvaccinated.  If this “new science” demands the vaccinated continue to wear masks and socially distance, then why haven’t we all been wearing masks and socially distancing since birth despite our childhood vaccinations? If today you can fly without a vaccine, why do you need one to fly tomorrow -- especially if we have achieved herd immunity?

Perhaps if COVID had the 15%-30% fatality rate of polio and its debilitating side effects, maybe young or healthy people wouldn’t be so reluctant to comply.  But for a virus that kills so few under 70 and fewer than 4% over 70 who, with vaccinations, can now be 100% protected against death or hospitalization, it’s a tough sell.

The Supreme Court would need to step In to address the constitutionality of the government denying fundamental rights to individuals who refuse to get a COVID vaccine or passport.  The government needs to prove that it has a compelling interest to protect the public from a dangerous pandemic.  But it will be hard pressed to prove that mandatory passports and vaccines for all are the least restrictive means to protect the public from a virus that has a low fatality rate for most, and vaccines and therapeutics that prevent death and hospitalization for high-risk groups.  With herd immunity, declining hospitalizations and deaths, less severe symptoms, and vaccines that prevent and therapeutics that fight infection, it is unlikely that the government will be able to justify infringing on fundamental constitutional protections because of COVID-19. 

But the real battle lies with the mindset exemplified by attorney Harry Litman who said:  “Vaccine passports are a good idea.  Among other things, it will single out the still large contingent of people who refuse vaccines, who will be foreclosed from doing a lot of things their peers can do.  That should help break the resistance down.”

No wonder people worry about dystopian-style repercussions and suspect they’ll be targeted, hunted down, and imprisoned in their homes for any resistance. This is the kind of venal thinking that must be eradicated along with the virus or COVID just might succeed in wiping out the American way of life.

Image: Scott Liebenson 

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