The Week (US)
Vaccine passports: A ticket to freedom—or tyranny?
Vaccine passports “don’t even exist yet” but have already become the latest flashpoint in the culture wars, said Molly Roberts in The Washington Post. With more than 100 million Americans now vaccinated against Covid-19, several states and private software companies are developing smartphone apps and paper certificates that would let vaccinated people enter “bars, ballparks, and other businesses” with some confidence that their fellow customers aren’t disease vectors shedding coronavirus. Like face masks before it, proof of vaccination is demonized by right-wing politicians and media as a dangerous liberal assault on liberty. The passport proposals “smack of 1940s Nazi Germany,” said Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.). Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called passports “Biden’s Mark of the Beast.” Despite this “silly foaming at the mouth,” said Mariel Garza in the Los Angeles Times, the Biden administration has explicitly ruled out issuing a federal vaccination mandate or a passport. Instead, it’s several states and private businesses that are working together to develop scannable proof of vaccination. But Florida’s lib-trolling Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott immediately banned private businesses in their states from requiring proof of vaccination. Vaccine passports would certainly speed up our return to normal life—but demagogues on the Right see them as another tool to keep their base “angry and afraid.”
Fear is warranted, said Michael Brendan Dougherty in National Review.com. Vaccination and natural immunity from prior coronavirus infection will soon mean that new Covid cases will “drop precipitously,” so this unnecessary “bio-surveillance regime” would serve only to turn vaccine skeptics into “scapegoats” who couldn’t work, travel, shop, or enter public places. Many liberals would welcome that “revenge.” Though I’m a libertarian, I reluctantly favor passports, said Megan McArdle in The Washington Post. The unvaccinated will impose a serious cost on the rest of us by “creating a reservoir of disease that can spread” and mutate, rendering our vaccines less effective and perhaps requiring a new round of vaccinations. Still, we must provide exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated for legitimate health reasons. A free society should be wary of setting conditions for “participating in public life.”
We impose such conditions all the time, said Paul Waldman in WashingtonPost.com. Children and teens cannot attend schools or camps or colleges without proving they’ve been injected with “a range of vaccines.” If you want to drive a car, we make you take a test, carry a license, and show it to police if stopped. Somehow our republic has survived these impositions without collapsing into an Orwellian dystopia, so I think we can probably handle “getting your smartphone scanned on your way into the gym.”
Besides, said Anthony Fisher in BusinessInsider.com, wasn’t it always a core Republican belief that private businesses have the right to choose their customers? When a Christian baker refuses to cater a gay wedding, conservatives applaud. But if that same baker refuses admission to “people who can’t prove they don’t pose a risk for spreading a virus that’s killed over 550,000 Americans,” suddenly he’s an enemy of liberty? The libertarian-conservative position on passports is “incoherent,” said columnist Will Wilkinson in ModelCitizen.substack.com. No unvaccinated person has the right to “pose a risk to the health of the entire community.” Let’s call the passport hysteria what it is: “Blatantly self-serving tribalism.”