America’s complicated relationship with public health will affect whether or not vaccine passports are introduced for travellers. Rose Dykins reports
As the US explores the possibility of introducing vaccine passports for international travellers, attitudes towards the certification remain polarised across the nation.
Previously, homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has expressed that the Biden administration is taking a “very close look” at implementing vaccine passports for travel in and out of the US.
At the same time, the US government has said it has no intention of launching an in-country vaccine certificate, nor is it planning for a federal vaccination mandate. As stated by the White House press secretary: “The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential.”
Just as mask wearing has become a contentious issue in the US, allowing citizens more freedoms based on their vaccination status is also causing a political divide, with different states demonstrating opposing strategies.
Some states, such as New York and California, are currently using citizens’ proof of vaccination status to safely allow large gatherings and social events. At the other end of the scale, Florida and Texas have banned vaccination certificates altogether.
Rather than simply being an issue of politically conservative attitudes to personal freedom versus progressive beliefs about social responsibility, individuals’ responses to vaccine passports are more nuanced than this.
Some citizens welcome the return to a more normal state of life without quarantines or the need for regular testing, regardless of their political persuasion. Others are concerned about the global inequality vaccine passports could perpetuate.
(According to Bloomberg, 40 per cent of the world’s vaccines are being given to the world’s richest nations, accounting for just 11 per cent of the world’s population). Meanwhile, some opponents to vaccine passports fear they are an invasion of their privacy.
According to experts, the strength of the opposition to vaccine passports also lies in America’s complicated relationship with public health issues.
As David Rosner, a socio-medical sciences professor at Columbia University told the BBC: “This is not a country that has necessarily deep heritage belief in government or in science. The idea of having ID cards or green passes here, I think it’s going to create another giant political crisis.”
Elsewhere in the world, vaccine passports continue to be rolled out. For example, the European Union has given its approval for an EU-wide Covid vaccine certificate. China’s nationwide vaccine passport can be stored in the country’s WeChat social media app.
Meanwhile, the global airline industry continues to pursue a universal vaccine certification via smartphone that could streamline the international travel process, with alternatives also being considered for those without access to smartphones.