4 Key Questions From the Vaccine Passport Debate

Pictured above: Governors DeSantis (left) and Abbott (right)

“Aren’t vaccine passports a form of social gatekeeping?”

After governor Abbott passed his order, he defended it on the grounds that requiring an official form to partake in everyday activities would create “two classes of citizens.”⁵ All things considered, the governor is on to something here. Vaccine availability often belies a class distinction between more or less privileged citizens. That said, it doesn’t manifest in the way Abbott implies.

“Don’t I have a right to keep my medical information private?”

Among the critiques leveled at vaccine passports, this point is the most bipartisan. The ACLU, WHO, and EU have all suggested that Covid-19 passports may not provide the most effective path to reopening. Furthermore, they pose reasonable questions about health and privacy. But before jumping to conclusions, we should consider the content of these documents.

“Don’t vaccine passports infringe on personal freedom?”

Both Abbott and DeSantis leaned on the rhetoric of freedom to justify their executive orders. Similar to the debates on mandatory face masks, arguments about passports have little to do with pragmatics or public health. Instead, it points to an ideological conflict.

“What’s the bottom line?”

Ultimately, this debate doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Just as mask mandates met with backlash, so too will vaccine passports. As such, Florida and Texas’ bans signal a point of tension in our culture. How long can we justify policy with vague promises of freedom without considering what that word means?

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