I’ve had my vaccine. But we should all be terrified of health passports
I’m bored of being lumped in with covidiots when it comes to a huge moral issue
NOTE: Some of this is only going to applicable to the UK. I’ve done my best to explain how our system works, but I might have missed something that might not make sense elsewhere. Sorry US readers!
Everyone should have their vaccine shots. Honestly, given the chance, I’d have every single vaccine on the planet. To date, I’ve leapt at every single one I’ve had offered to me, from HPV to measles. I mean, why not? I hate being sick. Who doesn’t? It sucks. If I can avoid even one day without being covered in green spots or hallucinating pilgrims colonising my wardrobe, I’ll take it. I’m not -and have never been- an antivaxxer.
However, I’m absolutely terrified of health passports. And you should be too.
So we’re all clear, I really don’t mind if you think having a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for international entry as a policy. A health requirement is not unprecedented. I probably wouldn’t let someone who looked seriously ill with an infectious disease onto my plane, either. A COVID vaccine requirement is a bit discriminatory against people from poorer countries (LEDCs) or those who are unable to get it, but sure. I can understand the reasoning. If you have a large, unvaccinated population of elderly or vulnerable people, it’s probably a good idea to do what you can to slow down transmission until cases go down. What I have a problem with is how alarmingly laissez-faire people are being about the massive moral dilemmas and problems the concept of a ‘health passport’ create. I’ll go through some of my biggest fears with you now.
1. It makes it staggeringly easy for abusers to control victims.
We already know that the first thing abusers take from their victims is their ID: the passport, driving licence, and NI all go in the locked cupboard. Having access to vaccines will be the same issue, but amplified, if health passports become a requirement to use public services. Instead of just needing to find your passport to go back to Romania, you’ll need to have had the latest vaccines and a valid health passport. Anyone who has even attempted to travel using locator forms, evidence of vaccination, and PCR and lateral flow testing lately will know how much of a headache this is even with a couple of months to plan. And you’ll need to have that to go to the clinic after being assaulted by a partner or punter. You’ll need it to enter a train station when fleeing your abuser. You’ll need it to get on a bus to get out of town. You’ll need it to go to school, or attend university. In a world where so many women already have their contraception, abortion access, and pain medications controlled by abusive fathers, partners, and pimps, can we really expect them not to take advantage of the big shut out for those without the right vaccines?
2. It can be extended onto issues that are a lower risk than COVID.
Honestly, I think COVID-19 is so global, and so dangerous, I can see the logic in making it a requirement, however distressing it must be for those in families with members far away in poorer countries. I understand that wanting to keep the hospitals relatively free of imported patients is an important priority for many nations.
However, what else will be lumped into a valid annual health passport? What other vaccines and information will be required? Will we need to wait until the annual roll out reaches us for each and every disease requiring a vaccination before we can travel? How many vaccines and tests will we be required to get before we travel internationally? Five? Ten? Fifteen? Will it extend beyond viruses to health statuses, to encourage people to lose weight and stay fit? Yellow fever is dangerous. Polio is dangerous. TB is dangerous. Malaria is dangerous. Obesity is dangerous. Diabetes is dangerous. Dementia is dangerous. Will we end up in a society where plus size people aren’t allowed to travel in case they take up a hospital bed? A society where you need to have had a tetanus jab to go to Paris? A society where you need to be vaccinated against five or six diseases on an annual roll out for the privilege of leaving the country? And will these all be free, I wonder? How much will all these tests cost? Is this another way of keeping us plebs holidaying in Blackpool for good?
3. It has the potential to be xenophobic and politicized.
You know this one: people from ‘over there’ are dirty, filthy, and unhygienic. The ‘over there’ depends what time period you are talking from, or where you are in the world: it might be the Balkans, the Chinese, the West, the Indians or the Irish. It would be possible under a ‘health passport’ to legitimise these racist and xenophobic tropes and ban whole nationalities from entry ‘in case’ they brought in a disease or variant. Don’t believe this is possible? The US just renewed a ban on all people in Europe from entering the US, even with two vaccines and a negative test, because…of the delta variant. Which they already have. And it makes up the vast majority of US cases. Because Americans are clean and hygienic, and Europeans are inferior and disease ridden, I guess? Whatever, Biden. He’s also banned Canada which is…weird. Not Mexico though. Maybe he was worried the COVID particles there would think he was being racist.
4. It can extend into our sexual freedoms and autonomy.
So we’ve established that a future health passport will probably not just be about having two COVID-19 shots in 2021, or the annual flu jab before you jet off to Ibiza. So what else are we going to do to ‘save lives’? What else should go on your shiny new health passport? Every sexual partner you’ve ever had? A monthly test for sexually transmitted diseases? A compulsory full sexual health check before you engage with a new partner, even a one night stand? Hey, maybe the NHS should be able to to choose whether or not you are allowed to have sex based on how many sexual partners you’ve had in the last 18 months, to reduce the risk of infection. You could be allowed to have up to three sexual encounters a year. You could scan the QR code and find out if you’re eligible for a legal sexual encounter with that person. That’s the kind of information we’re fine sharing, right? Right? Don’t you want to save lives and eradicate HIV?
5. It sets a dangerous precedent for autocracies and dictators.
It’s super easy to control the borders for ‘health’ under emergency powers. Putin’s been doing a great job keeping his country safe from dangerously infectious political opponents, as has Xi and his pal Kim Jong-un. With a new health passport, you could use a very complex collection of vaccine requirements to leave or enter the country to control who was allowed in, and who was allowed out. Simply add a new health requirement for entry, and suddenly they’re trapped. If someone hasn’t had their 2025 vaccine roll out against the swine flu, how can they possibly travel across the border to claim sanctuary? Everyone knows they could have caught a latent strain while living in rural Surrey. Why take the risk?
I know, these are a collections of what-ifs.
But don’t come crying to me when you can’t go to concerts in the UK until October each year because you’re under 25 and the annual vaccine roll out hasn’t reached you, or if you can’t afford your 20 required tests and jabs to travel to Ibiza. Health passports are a nightmare we cannot just let slide into our daily lives.