Will Vaccine Passports be America’s Version of Yellow Badges?

With millions of Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, a national debate now rages over vaccine passports” (or vaxxports) that privilege those who have taken the jab.” These proofs of immunization take the form of a smartphone app with a personalized QR code. Those favoring such digital certification say it makes us safer” as a society and hastens a return to pre-pandemic normalcy. But critics liken it to Chinas social scoring system (Social Credit System) aimed at rewarding those who conform and punishing those who dont. They decry it as government overreach, invasion of privacy, and curtailment of personal freedom. They believe Americans shouldnt be required to show proof of vaccination or reveal personal information to go about their daily lives. Anti-vaxxport protesters in Californias Orange County – who are on the frontlines in this battle – even had a placard saying "'Show Your Papers' is a Nazi Plan."

The Biden administration ushered in the vaxxport program deviously, freeing itself of accountability and letting private companies in tune with it to implement the agenda. The idea was floated as a trial balloon with a statement by White House press secretary Jen Psaki: There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.” But by adding that the development of a vaccine passport, or whatever you want to call it, will be driven by the private sector,” Psaki admitted that the policy would be enforced by private companies.

The effort is spearheaded by the usual suspects – Microsoft, Oracle, the Commons Project (a Rockefeller Foundation-funded non-profit that is part of the World Economic Forum), and other corporations committed to global vaccination certification. They claim to follow an equitable and privacy-preserving approach to verifiable data sharing.” Their project, the Vaccination Credential Initiative – a coalition of more than 300 healthcare and technology groups – is working on the upcoming implementation of a SMART health card that stores vital medical data, including vaccination records. But such record-keeping systems are at risk. In 2019, a University of California test found the healthcare reporting mechanism vulnerable to cyberattacks, data privacy breaches, and even data manipulation that could result in patient injury or death.

Residents of Orange County, well informed and politically aware, have been the most vocal and active in the fight against vaccine passports. They have taken on the county authorities, who have been secretive and underhanded with funds for the program. Protesters are opposing the implementation of a de rigueur digital record system for vaccines that are at best described as experimental since they have not yet been approved by the FDA.

Initially, residents were informed that the smartphone-based Othena app, purchased by the county in late 2020 outside established contract protocols, was meant for vaccination appointments, tracking side-effects, and providing them a digital record of their inoculations. In April, residents voiced concern that a digital vaccination passport might be implemented. But county supervisors, much like the Biden administration, proclaimed that they would never institute such a requirement. Then, belying conspiratorial intent, one supervisor commented that demanding such documentation would be an issue between businesses and their clients. That is, the county wont intervene should a business or a school decide not to admit those who arent able to provide proof of vaccination via the app.

The worry is that digital records can be used to track people. Cyberattacks and data glitches could reveal private medical information. Worst of all, vaxxports create a two-tiered society. Those who choose not to be vaccinated – for religious reasons or because the non-FDA approved vaccines are of dubious safety and efficacy – wont be able to move about freely and lead normal lives.

Peggy Hall, a community leader who runs the website The Healthy American, exposes the duplicity of the countys Board of Supervisors. She says that by not formally mandating vaxxports, the county can affirm adherence to the California civil code (CIV Sec 51), entitling every individual free and equal access to all services in any business establishment of any kind whatsoever, regardless of their medical condition.” The true fight, she says, is to get the Board of Supervisors to state on record that they will prosecute businesses for discrimination should they demand vaccine passports from customers.

Ms. Hall also draws on another California law – the Protection of Human Subjects in Medical Experimentation Act – giving individuals the right to determine what is done to their own bodies” and the right to decide or consent or not to consent to a medical experiment without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, coercion or undue influence on the subjects decision.” Since all anti-COVID vaccines remain unapproved, they may be deemed experimental. Therefore, individuals have the right to refuse and should not be penalized in any way for doing so.

Another valiant leader in the fight, Attorney Leigh Dundas of Advocates for Civil Rights, points out that the legislation on medical experimentation on human subjects is a criminal statute. Experimentation without informed consent is punishable by six months in jail or a $50,000 fine or both. Mandating immunization with unapproved vaccines amounts to forcing people to subject themselves to medical experimentation – a criminal act.

Besides, Ms. Dundas notes, 40% of residents over the age of 65, 20% of the poor, and 15% of most minorities dont own smartphones.” Therefore, requiring people to show a QR code on an app is impractical and discriminatory as a significant percentage of the population cant even show proof of vaccination.” Adding that everyone has a right to freedom of movement in the community, she wonders why vaccination against COVID-19 should be a requirement for entering a place of business when negative tests were never demanded for tuberculosis, also an airborne disease like COVID-19.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also weighed in on the debate and says vaccine passports amount to government overreach. The organization opposes vaccine passports saying they are privacy-invasive and have the potential to segment society. The website has an article titled Theres a Lot That Can Go Wrong With Vaccine Passports.' Another says: Coronavirus Immunity Passports Are Not the Answer: A system of immunity passports in the United States threatens to exacerbate racial disparities and harm the civil liberties of all.

Last week, close to 1,000 anti-vaxxport protestors, many for the second time, gathered at yet another Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting. The board initially defended vaxxports, saying they would enable full reopening of the economy. Clearly incentivizing businesses to comply, Supervisor Katrina Foley cited the importance of tourism to the area and said tourist attractions are booked online and would need to depend on digital proof of vaccination to operate at full capacity. In the face of public disapproval, the board ultimately voted 4:1 against the pursuit of digital passports, but the matter could be opened for later consideration. So the fight continues in Orange County, where residents are vocal, well-educated, and know their legal rights. They could serve as role models for the rest of the country.

Their sentiments are echoed by Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who told Fox News in an interview that getting the vaccine is a right-to-choose issue”, and that Americans should be well informed before deciding to get vaccinated. No one should be pressured into doing so. He cautioned that 3,000 deaths and 10,000 hospitalizations have been reported on the VAERS database of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40% of them occurring in the first three days.

The bottom line is that Americans are being told – without proper testing – that the vaccines are 85% to 94.1% effective. Also that those who take the jab neednt worry about infection from those who abstain. Without any scientific basis, such reasoning divides Americans, privileges some, discriminates against some, and tramples on individual rights. Vaxxports could become Americas 21st century version of yellow badges.

Image: Marco Verch Professional Photographer, via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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