Vaccine passports strike some as a no-brainer, others as another hideous intrusion on basic rights. But the bottom line is that it’s another one of those technocratic ideas that at best comes too late and would be near-impossible to make work well in this nation, just as contact-tracing has essentially failed.
It’s intended as a safety measure: You’d need this ID to enter restricted areas — airports, sports and concert stadiums, maybe even restaurants and museums. Some employers, eager to make workers feel safe and to avoid lawsuits, would require it just to go to work.
The White House confirmed last week the Biden administration is helping the private sector develop vaccine passports, with 17 initiatives already underway. They’re even working with the World Health Organization on its “smart vaccine certificate,” despite WHO’s bungling all pandemic long. (All by itself, its role helping Beijing cover up the plague’s origins fatally undermined trust in its advice.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants to vet who gets to issue passports as the feds set standards for how Americans prove they’ve been fully vaccinated.
Gov. Cuomo has already unveiled one in New York, the first state to do so. Madison Square Garden, wedding venues and other institutions have already started using the “Excelsior Pass.”
Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed to ban them: “It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society.”
Even if those fears are overblown, they’re very American, and a guarantee that passports won’t work as well as the techocrats dream. And that’s far from the only serious practical issue.
For example: Resistance to getting jabbed is much stronger among certain demographics. Are Cuomo and the Biden administration really going to issue IDs that turn many African Americans into second-class citizens? How does this square with all the arguments that requiring photo ID to vote is fundamentally racist?
Short-term, a passport system also discriminates against those who are immune because they’ve already had the virus and see no need to be jabbed (especially with supplies still limited). Getting solid info for the ID is daunting, too: What of those vaccinated in other states? Is a screenshot of your vaccination card enough? You can already buy fake cards on the dark Web for just $200.
Roughly 100 million Americans have already gotten at least one dose. Who’s going to compile and continually update that data — and vet it for accuracy?
Don’t get us wrong: We’re big-time pro-vax. All Americans should thank former President Donald Trump for fast-tracking development and approval and, crucially, advance ordering vast amounts of vaccines. (Just look at how screwed up Europe is right now.)
No, neither the vaccine nor a previous case makes you 100 percent immune, but 95 percent is good enough — and those few cases where infection still happens are inevitably mild.
Which brings us to the biggest issue: The nation is fast approaching herd immunity — the level at which transmission of the virus becomes a trivial risk.
Add it up: 30 million confirmed US cases, plus far more who’ve been infected and recovered without a test because their illness was so mild. Add in 56 million-plus already fully vaccinated, with the number soon to soar to 100 million and then 200 million.
In fact, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine prof Marty Makary predicts we’ll reach herd immunity this month. Even if he’s over-optimistic, it’s just another month or two.
Bottom line: Our leaders should focus on reopening, not making it harder for Americans to get back to normal.
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