Are Vaccine Passports A Good Idea?

Vaccine passports are coming and many people across the political spectrum are unhappy about this. Some entertainment venues have criticised the government's plans and the prime minister has faced a backlash from some of his own MPs. Personally - and I'm sure this will make many people mad(!) - I remain ambivalent. I have serious reservations about vaccine passports, but I cannot deny there are some decent arguments in their favour.

Here are the facts:

All nightclubs and indoor venues will require proof of vaccination by the end of September. The government says this is because Covid-rates are spiking in young adults and their strategy is the best way to avoid repeated lockdowns.

We could either lock the entire country down once every few months when a new Covid wave arrives, or we could introduce vaccine passports, or we could leave the country fully open. Let's be honest, all three options are pretty crap, and I'm certainly no Tory apologist, but the government has to choose the least crap option. I think we will all take a different view on what the least crap option is.

The science shows us large entertainment venues where young people gather are among the main Covid breeding grounds, but then again, schools and workplaces would be the other main breeding grounds and passports would not be required there. Opponents of passports could therefore rightly claim a double standard.

Then there is the civil liberties argument that people feel they are being coerced into taking a vaccine they are genuinely concerned about. I am in favour of vaccination - I'm currently single-jabbed with the Pfizer vaccine and I honestly felt great after getting vaccinated. My long-Covid symptoms were immediately reduced (but did not disappear entirely) so I would certainly say vaccination is a good idea. 

But do we want to live in a country where people are forced to be vaccinated? I would say no. Not least because vaccines do sometimes go wrong. A radio presenter in my local area - Lisa Shaw - tragically lost her life to a vaccine, earlier this year. The risk of death from vaccines may be extremely low, but it is not zero.

People must surely be allowed to choose whether they want to have the vaccine or not. For this reason, I would be against the idea of a permanent vaccine passport. If this situation was made permanent, then we would have a vaccine apartheid where anyone who has reservations about taking the vaccine loses their long-term freedom. This would clearly be unacceptable. People should have bodily autonomy and we should not live in a two-tier society.

On the flip-side, it could be argued that only allowing the vaccinated inside nightclubs and venues during times of high Covid rates is a necessary evil, just like lockdowns were a necessary evil. The ultimate goal is surely to save lives.

Critics of vaccine passports insist they are unfair because the vaccines do not reduce Covid transmission rates, but this is not entirely accurate. While the vaccines do not fully prevent transmission, a study by Public Health England found they appear to reduce transmission by about 40-60%. Such a reduction is not perfect by any means, but double-vaccinated people are at half the risk of contracting the virus and passing it onto others.

While some have cited legitimate vaccine safety concerns, it must be emphasised, those safety concerns are hugely outweighed by the risk of contracting Covid-19. For example, the risk of blood clots is much greater from contracting Covid-19 than from taking any vaccine, including the Astra-Zeneca vaccine. Also, it's worth noting the government is offering younger people vaccines, other than Astra-Zeneca, which have a better safety record.

Vaccines have proven effective at reducing the severity of illness, rates of hospitalisation, organ damage and long-Covid symptoms. On a personal and entirely anecdotal level, I would recommend the Pfizer vaccine for help with long Covid, but I remain unsure whether I am for or against vaccine passports. What do you think?

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