Much ado about vaccine passports, even if they aren’t quite new.
In the pilgrimage town of Pandharpur in Bombay, India, shortly after a vaccine for plague was developed in 1897, authorities required proof of vaccination as a condition of entry for the pilgrims who would flock to Pandharpur every year.
The US has had vaccine passes before, as far back as the late 1800s. At ports of entry, such as on Ellis Island in New York and on Angel Island in San Francisco, and along the US border with Canada and Mexico, travelers had been required to present proof they had been vaccinated from smallpox.
COVID-19 is only the latest of infectious diseases to necessitate a public health measure requiring proof of immunity. Since 1959, the IVCP or the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, otherwise known as Carte Jeune or the Yellow Card, has been in common use when you are traveling to or from some parts of South America, Africa, and India and other Asian countries. In Morocco, for instance, as a travel advisory has put it, border control agents will ask for IVCP from “travelers two years of age and over arriving within six days of leaving an infected country.” In Thailand, the Yellow Card is a standard required of travelers “coming from 42 African and South American countries.”
Much ado about vaccine passports, but that’s because vaccine certificates as a potential route back to “normal” might lead us down a very slippery slope. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) is against it, “given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution,” as WHO’s emergency committee has put it.
Some 3.04 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of Wednesday, June 30, 2021, across 180 countries, according to data collected by Manila Bulletin, but that’s not half reassuring in a world inhabited by 7.8 billion people in 195 countries, each of whom would need at least two shots.
By logic, a vaccine passport at this point will be a privilege for a minority and a privilege of which more than half of the world will be denied.
In the Philippine Senate, a few have raised the possibility that vaccine passports might be divisive and discriminatory, prompting a name change, from vaccine passport to vaccine pass to vaccine card.
Much ado about vaccine passports, but that’s because many questions need to be answered, including how long each of the available vaccines, all of which have been approved only under EAU (Emergency Use Authorization), can provide immunity from COVID-19.
There are many more, but the most important question remains: Is it time?
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