The By-invitation section publishes commentaries from a range of perspectives. For a view in favour of vaccine certificates, read a commentary by Ashish Jha and one on Israel’s experience by Rachel Azaria. For more, read The Economist’s leader and article.
IMAGINE IF GOVERNMENTS reintroduced leper colonies, placed people with tuberculosis in “prisons” and forbade those with HIV/AIDS from some public places—all of which has happened (and continues, such as with HIV restrictions for certain visas). We would be aghast. Throughout history, excluding people based on their health status has been highly discriminatory.
Yet a somewhat similar logic is behind the idea of vaccine passports. Those who pose a low risk of transmitting the virus will be allowed to reintegrate into society, and the rest will not. Though in the first examples the people are ill, the wider point in all these cases is that health status becomes the way to determine an individual’s right to participate in social, civic and economic life—and society globally will become two-tiered.
The appeal of vaccine certificates is understandable. Businesses and governments see them as essential for reopening society and reinvigorating flailing economies. Several places have implemented or approved programmes, notably Israel and countries in the European Union. But it is a dangerous policy that could unleash demons that we’ll be living with for years. There are far better ways to manage public health and open the economy that do not divide society.
Though some critics