Vaccine Passports: Why?

A number of countries are instituting, or proposing to institute, “vaccine passport” systems. This means, basically, that no one will be allowed to go out in public, or to enter most public places, without carrying a certificate of vaccination. Understandably, requiring everyone to have “papers” to engage in normal daily activities rubs many the wrong way. Thus, protests have broken out in several countries. Via the Epoch Times:

This is a huge crowd in Trafalgar Square. Note the big Trump flag, and also the fact that the crowd sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

France24 describes the protests in that country, attributing them for the most part to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories:

Starting July 21, a health pass (pass sanitaire) will be needed to access any of France’s leisure and cultural venues serving more than 50 people, including cinemas and museums. From the beginning of August, the pass will be required on any long-distance public transport, in shopping centres or at cafés and restaurants – including on France’s famed outdoor terraces.

The pass must either include the QR code that proves someone has been fully vaccinated in France or results from a negative PCR or antigen test taken in the previous 48 hours.
[T]he move has provoked furious opposition among many in France: some 137 rallies took place across the country on Saturday, gathering nearly 114,000 demonstrators (including 18,000 in Paris), according to the interior ministry.

Many appeared to have taken to the streets out of a libertarian belief that obliging people to be vaccinated if they want to access public venues and activities is an infringement on their basic rights.
But most of the political opposition to the health pass has come from extremes on both sides of the political spectrum. …
Embedded in the crowd, Le Figaro’s reporter repeatedly overheard conspiracy theories such as that the pandemic “was orchestrated in advance” and “it’s all to make money for the laboratories”. When Richard Boutry – a former France Télévisions journalist who now tours the country propagating conspiracy and anti-vax ideas – arrived on the scene, many demonstrators chanted his nickname: “Ricardo! Ricardo!”
“I feel there were likely fewer avowed and strident civilian libertarians than there were conspiracists at these demonstrations,” said Andrew Smith, a professor of French politics at the University of Chichester.

I suppose that might be true, but it seems more likely that most who oppose vaccine passports would make a blindingly obvious point: the vaccines either work reliably against covid (in particular the Indian variant, which is driving the current hysteria) or they don’t. If they do, those who have been vaccinated have no complaint against those who choose not to follow suit. They can go about in public safely, without any danger from the unvaccinated. On the other hand, if the vaccines do not reliably protect against covid, those who think the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits have a point, and government has no business forcing them to undergo medical treatment against their will.

When it comes to anti-covid hysteria, Australia is a special case. That country has been locked down for a long time, its government apparently believing that the kind of blockade that keeps out illegal immigrants will also keep out a virus. I am highly skeptical that this strategy will work, as is Robert Elliott, writing in the Telegraph: “Here in Australia, this childish reliance on lockdowns will eventually end in tears.”

South Australia, the state in which I reside, has gone into lockdown following five positive Covid-19 tests. The reports do not suggest that anybody is ill, let alone that that anyone has died. On the contrary, it would seem that the individuals in question would not even know that they are “cases” but for the results of their tests.

Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier has explained the rationale: “The virus doesn’t have legs: it moves around when people move around, so if people stay put we will be able to get on top of it.”

This is analysis more suitable for a preschool classroom than a serious public health response. Save for a few exceptions, people here now have to stay at home. Most shops are shut. Schools are shut. Construction sites are shut. Even Professor Spurrier’s husband has been required to stay home; she has told him that he can use the time to tidy up his sock drawer. The hospitals (where a good deal of the virus spreading has been going on) remain open, albeit that elective surgery has been banned, so that the legless virus will be able to continue to hop around in that environment.

Expert opinion appears to be unanimous that – in the long term – we are going to have to live with Covid, such that the sooner we get to herd immunity, the better. For Australia to try to live on an entirely Covid-free basis is probably about as sensible as sitting on the beach at low water ordering the tide not to come in. …

Meanwhile, Professor Spurrier’s announcements do not suggest that she has taken any account of the worldwide evidence that lockdowns do no permanent good: they merely postpone the inevitable at considerable cost.

With the exception of President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, the global response to the Wuhan epidemic strikes me as a primer in what not to do–it has imposed maximum damage for minimum benefit. Vaccine passports, where they are implemented, will be one more stage in this exercise in futility.

For what it is worth, I doubt that we will see renewed shutdowns or vaccine passports in the U.S. Not because our public health establishment is any smarter than those in Europe and Asia, but because I don’t think our people will stand for it, and 2022 is already shaping up as a tough year for the Democrats.