Pack your bags and say goodbye to the Vaccine Passport

The ‘vaccine passport’ discussion has seemingly caused a lot of tension in the community. Let’s not
get it twisted at the start—just because someone disagrees with the idea of a vaccine passport does
not mean they disagree with the idea of the vaccine. Yet, in some way this idea has managed to
cloud over the discussion and has often led to pointless debate and even tension across
international and supranational levels.
The biggest elephant in the room about the proposed ‘passport’ is within the rollout. Young people
were obviously the last to be vaccinated as they were seemingly the least affected by the
coronavirus, however as we have finally just had the ability to register to get vaccinated (supposed
with everyone else in the UK receiving their letters automatically?), what if a whole entire section of
the population is discriminated against for the government’s inept ability to operate a successful
vaccine rollout? The argument of how well each nation has done in their vaccine program is up for a
different discussion, but the fact remains—whilst not everyone has been offered the vaccine, any
sort of discussion of a vaccine passport should remain illegal.
You could say that is a hot take, but there are levels to this that go beyond the government’s own
inability to run a nation. When we talk about getting a vaccine to ‘prevent the virus’, ‘to help the
NHS’, to ‘stop the unnecessary deaths of the vulnerable’, and so on. . . we talk about it in a way to
end and eradicate the coronavirus pandemic. The introduction of a vaccine passport completely
undermines this message that the government has been spreading for months. Immediately the
vaccine passport becomes a tool that allows someone to go to the pub, the cinemas, galleries . . .
almost anywhere and everywhere because of that ‘privilege’ of being vaccinated. We already have
enough people questioning the legitimacy of the vaccines and now people being forced to take one
just to enjoy freedom of life? No other vaccine is enforced in the UK to go to the pub, why start with
the coronavirus? If this were to happen it will be seen as a huge breach of our Article 8 right of the
European Convention on Human Rights and an embarrassment to the UK Government when the
case is heard before Strasbourg.
You might argue that vaccination certificates and mandatory jabs are nothing new; I mean true, if
you’ve every travelled to Asia you must have had several injections before you travelled. Vaccination
certificates for travel and for medical purposes is not new, nor is the requirement to carry them
when travelling to prevent the spread of epidemics, but how comparable is this to going to your
local pub to get absolutely cross-eyed over a few pints of Tennent’s? Any sort of comparison or
attempt to rationalise this with ‘medical purpose’ would be a disgrace. The Council of Europe
themselves have raised concerns about human rights violations on any immunisation data being
user for purposes other than strictly medical ones—a high ‘risk of discrimination and arbitrariness’.
Perhaps this is rich considering the European Union’s decision to issue a ‘Digital Green Certificate’ to
allow travel within Europe. A key difference though lies with a mandatory vaccination not being
needed to obtain one with negative tests being suffice. However, even here the European
Commission’s proposal is one that lacks justification and legitimacy as its infringement of human
rights and freedoms arises once again. There is still room for arbitrariness and discrimination as
these documents distinctly differ from those who have been vaccinated and those who obtained a
negative test, or one who has recovered from coronavirus. The same issue arises as within the
UK—the rollout process. Just now are we seeing nations choose to open the vaccine for everyone as
this gradual rollout method hasn’t worked effectively and fear of a third wave that will affect young
people is imminent and real. If the rollout idea is still being followed in some other nations, we risk
creating a genuine two-tier society on basis of health on a large confederal level. Once again though
when it comes to travel there is still room to manoeuvre.

Fundamentally a mandatory vaccine passport on a domestic level would be nothing short of a
disaster and a Grand Chamber judgement just waiting to happen. Whilst Article 8 of the ECHR can be
limited and obstructed on by governing bodies, and has been quite often (though now more
expansive and liberal), it is difficult to see how a restriction on our everyday private life on this scale
would be lawful, legitimate, and proportionate. The need to disclose personal data and information
just to enjoy our everyday life is completely out the way of autonomy and ability to live out your life
in privacy.
Is this really a means to end we want as a society? The biggest counterargument of all this nonsense
is that we can break the lockdown cycle and create a health utopia against the coronavirus. We’ve
seen that it can’t be eradicated with nations who had previously declared it so, which are now back
in lockdown (most notably New Zealand and Australia). Would a vaccine passport be any worse than
how locked in we’ve been in the last 18 months? Are we willing to give up that small bit of liberty
that we seem to not really care about until it is put in front of us? There is always the room for legal
ambiguity when you create a new precedent, but perhaps the danger of vaccine passport is one that
creates far too much for our liking. . .
[Lachlan Farquharson – he/him – @lachfarq]

[Photo credits: Olya Kobruseva]

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