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Explained: Pros and cons of vaccine passports in COVID times

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As the world opens up and we start travelling, ‘vaccine passports’ enter the general discourse. They are already in circulation in some countries. But concerns over forgery and privacy remain.

Explained: Pros and cons of vaccine passports in COVID times
Countries across the globe are going all out to vaccinate their citizens against the novel coronavirus. Some of them have also begun issuing so-called ‘vaccine passports’ allowing citizens to use proof of vaccination to travel freely once again. A vaccine passport has become a much-debated and discussed topic among both the public and leaders worldwide.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is not in favour of making vaccine passports mandatory, citing that COVID-19 vaccines are still not available across the globe.
The US has begun issuing vaccine passports or digital certificates as proof of immunisation status of people. But the move is facing resistance for a host of reasons. For one, these certificates can easily be forged, and online scammers are already selling false and stolen vaccine cards.
Roadblocks
Around 52.2 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. After the jab, they are given a sheet of paper where details can be filled in. These paper cards or certificates can be easily forged. Some have even taken to stealing blank cards and selling them.
Even though Americans are not legally bound to have such a card, many private business and airlines are asking for proof of vaccination before offering any services or entry. Many new businesses are trying to launch apps that would provide verified electronic records of immunisation to simplify the process for businesses.
Opposition
Vaccine passports have left many worried about privacy. There is also added pushback from individuals who are not willing to get vaccinated. A passport contains personal data including a person’s legal name and date of birth, and people are understandably hesitant about handing over those details to private companies.
But these vaccine passports don’t ask for sensitive personal data.
The advocates for digital certificates say these will help speed up the re-opening of the economy and boost confidence amongst business owners.
Vaccine Passports in US
While the Biden administration has stated that there will be no federal level vaccine certification programme that will be mandatory for all, many states have taken matters into their own hands.
Fourteen American states, all with a Republican governor in charge, have banned any form of vaccine certificates while another state has partially restricted them. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming have banned vaccine passports and have restricted businesses from refusing entry or service to individuals on the basis of their immunisation status. Utah has also banned vaccine passports but hasn’t stopped private business from asking for them.
Only two states so far have implemented any form of vaccine passport -- Hawaii and New York.
The other 33 states have not taken any legal stand on the matter as of yet.
Status in Europe, Japan, Israel
Many countries have already started to issue vaccine passports to their citizens. Though these passports are intended for those who are travelling to other countries, most countries have COVID-19 certificates in digital forms. Many countries are beginning to consider the necessity of vaccine passports for gatherings and other high-risk activities.
Sixteen European countries have started issuing vaccine passports for international travel. Japan will also start issuing such passports to citizens flying out of the country. Meanwhile, in Israel citizens need to show an electronic ‘Green Pass’ to enter gyms, concerts and wedding halls and to dine indoors

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