Opinion | So You Got a Vaccine. Should You Have to Prove it?

Vaccine passports are here, and they could be our ticket to freedom. But they could also create an ethical nightmare.













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Strongly held opinions. Open-minded debates. Only occasional yelling. “The Argument” is a weekly ideas show, hosted by Jane Coaston.

More than 19 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and upward of 665 million vaccine doses have been administered worldwide. As these numbers continue to rise, countries have begun issuing or considering “vaccine passports.”

Vaccine passports — proof through a phone app or on a piece of paper that you’ve had your shots — are a potential ticket to freedom for millions of vaccinated people around the world. Israel already has them. The European Union and China have also announced a version of them. In the United States, there’s talk about what such a certification might look like.

But vaccine passports also raise huge ethical questions, with 85 percent of shots worldwide having been administered in wealthier countries. And with private tech companies working on creating these passports in the United States, there’s worry about the risks of sharing health records with third-party apps. Both Texas and Florida have prohibited government-mandated vaccine passports.

On today’s episode, our guests debate the concept of a vaccine passport and discuss the ethical and privacy considerations that come along with them. Natalie Kofler is a molecular biologist and bioethicist at Harvard Medical School. Ramin Bastani is the founder and chief executive of Healthvana, a patient platform that delivers test results and is supplying vaccine passports. He says we should think of them more like an everyday health record — and he thinks we need them to ensure everyone’s safety. Then, we turn to listener voice mail messages as they share their thoughts on the reopening of schools.

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Learn More

“Vaccine Passports Won’t Get us Out of the Pandemic,” in The Times.

“Vaccinated Workers Are Getting Benefits That Those Without Covid Shots Won’t,” in Bloomberg, about vaccine passports in Israel.

WBUR’s episode on the pros and cons of vaccine passports.

Thoughts? Email us at [email protected] By leaving us a message, you are agreeing to be governed by our reader submission terms and agreeing that we may use and allow others to use your name, voice and message. Transcripts of each episode are available midday.

“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez and Vishakha Darbha and edited by Alison Bruzek and Paula Szuchman; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair; music and sound design by Isaac Jones.

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