It’s a question of social fairness that has grown increasingly pertinent for public health officials as more and more Americans receive their initial dose of the Covid-19 vaccine: Should vaccinated people, or those with antibodies, have more freedom than those without or who have not been vaccinated? As some public spaces begin to open up, this conundrum is one that will also be faced by businesses across the country – does an airline prioritize a traveler who has had two vaccine doses over another who has only had one? Or do movie theatre chains have the right to deny a customer who refuses to be vaccinated?
When vaccines were being developed last year, the idea of immunity or vaccine passports started to emerge. And despite Dr. Fauci’s recent announcement that the federal government won’t mandate Covid passports, the state of New York has recently introduced the Excelsior Pass, whereby New Yorkers will be able to access a code on their cellphone or a printout to show they have been vaccinated or recently tested negative for the coronavirus. Proponents argue that introducing these is a logical step, a process that would speed up the return to normal activities — also known as selective risk stratification. Opponents, on the other hand, say it has the potential to stigmatize individuals who lack certification, and may also penalize people who are already at a disadvantage because of certain inequalities.
MyBioSource.com, a biotechnical products distribution company, conducted a survey of 3,000 people to take the pulse of the nation when it comes to this topic. It found that that opinion was quite divided – overall, 67% of Vermonters believe immunity passports should be issued as proof of receiving the Covid-19 vaccine (compared to a national average of 59%).
Interestingly, the research also found that nearly 1 in 3 (30%) of people surveyed believe there should be an interstate travel ban for people who have not had their Covid-19 vaccine. While the idea of banning someone from travel based on their vaccination status might divide the opinions of some, it should also be noted that some countries have had immunization certificate requirements in place for a number of years for foreign travelers, to prevent the spread of diseases such as yellow fever and polio.
A number of vaccines are also required for any student wishing to attend public school, as a matter of public health. When it comes to the Covid vaccine, moreover, 60% of people think professional sports teams should give preference to ticketholders who have been vaccinated. This follows the announcement that this year, the Super Bowl gave away 7,500 free tickets to healthcare workers who had received both doses of the vaccine, to attend the game on Feb. 7. Considering the large crowds of people who attended sports games at stadiums and arenas before the pandemic, it’s perhaps no wonder people would want to feel more protected in these settings.
More than half (53%) of people also think if they are issued, immunity passports should also state which company’s vaccine people received.
Additionally, the survey found that over 2 in 5 (42%) say they would be concerned about privacy and data sharing if vaccine passports are to be introduced. However, nearly half (47%) would be willing to share their data with Big Pharma if it helped improve the Covid-19 vaccine.