Friday, April 16, 2021

Immunity Passports Are the Worst Idea to Come Out of the Pandemic

The tool that will exacerbate immunization inequality

Have you been vaccinated for Covid? It may very well become the catchphrase for 2021 and 2022 and for all the wrong reasons. The Covid vaccine has become politicized and now Immunity Passports intend to commercialize it. The vaccines find themselves a long way away from their original healthcare roots and primary purpose.

Globally, huge swathes of the world have yet to see a Covid Vaccine, let alone stand in line for the immunizing effects of the vaccine. As with much of everything else we develop, poor countries suck on the hind tit of humanity. Last in line, these hand-me-down societies live off the charity of their more affluent neighbors, and all too frequently that charity is not forthcoming. It’s often not even related to charity, but rather the fact that wealthy countries are able to outbid their poorer neighbors for pretty much anything on offer on the global markets.

Covid vaccines have underlined this global wealth divide and Immunity Passports (IP) will be the final nail in the coffin, cutting off citizens of these countries from the benefit of travel and effectively isolating them until the world decides its time to vaccinate their populations. Wealth buys privilege, or in this instance, the right to travel.

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This article isn’t about how we’ve decided to distribute available vaccine stock. That’s another 30-page thesis on its own, an example of how man prefers his wealthy neighbor over the poorer cousin, measuring humanity with the yardstick of wealth. This article will instead examine how Immunity Passports are an unwise, unethical knee-jerk reaction and will be abused for the purposes of discriminating against those who have not been vaccinated, either through choice or as a result of poverty.

Denying Choice is a Slippery Path

The general consensus is that you are free to decide if you want to be vaccinated or not. That’s the theory. The actual truth is that you aren’t. Far from it. You have no choice in the matter, not with the introduction of IP’s which will be utilized in the following way, despite claims these are simply being issued for travel (a fallacy we’ll expose further into the article)

  • simple access to public resources will be limited to those who are able to produce an IP
  • Health clubs, hairdressers, restaurants, and other retailers will begin to institute selective practices, favoring those who carry an IP. The image of the unvaccinated crowded unceremoniously into an isolated space in a restaurant, considered laughable months ago, is rapidly becoming a reality.
  • Unthinkable, but a very real possibility, is the way in which IP’s could be used to selectively affect patients’ access to healthcare and cover. This practice is already prevalent in the UK. 
  • Access to employment, finance, and housing will be determined by this innocuous-looking document that carries the simple term “vaccinated”. Why would vaccination affect your ability to loan money? Simple risk calculations. As an unvaccinated individual, you pose a higher risk.

Any sane, rational person that does not clearly see the opportunity to segregate, divide and discriminate against those that have not been vaccinated, clearly doesn’t understand the situation. The IP is merely a way to label and legitimize the process. 

Personal liberties and the right to choice aside, would you trust governments, who have proved themselves over and over to have no concern for their constituents, not to abuse an IP or the data it provides them with.

Would you trust the corporate world not to abuse these documents? It may not even devolve to individual businesses denying unvaccinated individuals access to their services. Local state and government-issued regulations may enforce this on small local businesses. Your child may face homeschooling or segregated classrooms if unvaccinated. 

These concerns are not ridiculous overreactions but very real outcomes faced by societies that seek to introduce an IP. I urge you to kick, scream and actively seek to prevent your country from engaging in what is in effect, a form of branding. A digital mark, not embedded in your skin, but attached to your name, your face, and your life. 

The only people who ever consider branding their citizens a good idea are the authoritarian that control that society. 

Are we safe from IP holders?

There is the issue of those who have been infected and acquired immunity naturally. Are they issued with a similar passport? A recent study by Public Health England showed natural infection confers similar immunity vaccination (the SIREN study). There are also reasons to believe natural immunity might reduce transmission (by specific antibodies in the airways, called IgA).

Problematic issues exist here too. Tests for antibodies are notoriously unreliable and issuing someone an IP that is based on a false positive can endanger their lives and those they come into contact with.

Opponents of immunity passports point out (correctly) that we do not know for certain the degree to which natural infection or vaccination reduces the risk of transmission. It is a grave moral issue that we still do not know this, and whether for ethical or political reasons, trials scheduled for January 2021 to infect healthy volunteers have again been postponed. 

It is most likely that natural or vaccination immunity reduces but does not eliminate the chance of reinfection or transmission.

It is probable we will have to live with COVID, as we live with influenza. Vaccines are unlikely to be a magic bullet and the chances of eliminating the virus from circulation are zero. Covid will become our new influenza and a return to sanity on the back of a horribly managed pandemic will result in society looking back in ten years’ time with amazement at our current pandemic strategies. 

Between then and now, we still have ample time and opportunity to further derail our societies. Immunity Passports represent one of those opportunities.

Who is the driving force behind the IP agenda?

Airlines were at the fore of IP issuance in late December of 2020, insisting it would release their industry from the Covid stranglehold and open up the airways once more to free and unrestricted travel, both locally and abroad. The idea has been rolling around in the press since early May of 202, with IPs seen as a route out of quarantine for at least a segment of the population.

The WHO came out in criticism of the plan, citing concerns over the efficacy of testing protocols and uncertainty as to the duration of immunity and the ability of vaccinated individuals to transmit the virus. Israel, in the meantime, has stepped to the forefront, announcing green booklets for the vaccinated. 

The booklet would offer vaccinated individuals significant freedom from Covid-19 safety restrictions. People holding it would no longer have to do the following:

Go into isolation after coming in contact with an infected person.

Go into isolation after international traveling to a Covid “red zone,” or countries with very high infection rates.

Have to be tested before entering certain touristy areas, known as “green islands.”

Interestingly, recovered patients who have not been vaccinated are not eligible for the booklet, so the Israeli policy is clearly designed to enforce vaccination. You can see how this opens a whole host of problems, not the least being the possibility of these individuals being able to freely carry and transmit new strains between borders.

The issue of data security

This is a huge concern. There is growing evidence that the APIs used in health-based applications are woefully inadequate. Security breaches regularly occur and the dark web prizes medical data above all else. It is one of the most sought-after commodities. Secure someone’s medical data and you have their life history in your hands.

Health data is a prime target for hackers and the digital health community has been completely lax in addressing glaring holes in their security protocols, holes that are resulting in your data being siphoned off right now, as you read this. 

Apple and Google are currently turning their attention to the creation and management of digital IPs. It’s an indicator of just how far down the path we have come and of what’s to come. If you have no concern with your data being sold to the highest bidder, then this issue won’t affect you.

For the rest of us though, who value our privacy, this one issue on its own is sufficient reason to ditch the entire IP program. Health and data security aren’t in a great place yet and it may take decades for the industry to impose secure protocols.

A final thought before I leave you for the supporters of IP, and one that may yet provide a form of ironic justice should the plans for IP come to fruition. We still have no idea of the eventual impacts of vaccination on our societies and, God forbid, in the event of there being long-term consequences, the governments will have you labeled for easy monitoring.. 

The fact that the wealthy and priviledged are first in line for IPs will at that point be of little consolation.

Covid Vaccination — Our Stance

While there is no clear evidence on the long-term effects of the various covid vaccines, we encourage at-risk populations, essential care workers, and other frontline individuals such as teachers and law enforcement to seek out vaccination at the earliest opportunity. Short-term safety is now well established and the benefits offered by the vaccine are considerable. We are not anti-vaccine! 

We are however pro-choice and the right to choose is an integral part of a free and healthy society. IPs will compromise this ability.

Further Reading

  1. The Ada Lovelace Institute: The Ada Lovelace Institute is monitoring the development of vaccine passports and COVID status apps in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
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PATIENT ADVISORY

Medika Life has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by Medika Life

This article lives here: Healthcare Policy and OpinionImmunity Passports Are the Worst Idea to Come Out of the Pandemic
Dr Robert Turnerhttps://cre8tive.media
Robert is a Founder of Medika Life. He is a published author and owner of Cre8tive Digital Media. He lives between the Philippines and the UK. and is an outspoken advocate for human rights. Access to basic healthcare and eradicating racial and gender bias in medicine are key motivators behind the Medika website and reflect Robert's passion for accessible medical care globally.

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