The ethical case against domestic use of ‘vaccine passports’ was made with some passion in Britain before Boris Johnson’s change of heart. Matt Hancock repeatedly assured people that Britain is ‘not a papers-carrying country’. Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said vaccine passports would be ‘discriminatory’. Michael Gove promised that there were ‘no plans’ to introduce them. In a Westminster Hall debate, MPs from all parties lined up to say that out of principle, the minority who chose not to take the vaccine should suffer no penalty.
We have not been told the reason for the u-turn. In theory, the government is taking soundings. In practise, those involved in Michael Gove’s review have been told that the decision has already been made by the PM: so they’re happening. (Technology makes it quite doable, with face-scanning the latest option.) But internationally, the ethical case against them continues. No one disputes that they would be discriminatory. The question is whether discrimination based on health status is now acceptable.
The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, thinks not and has just banned them completely.
His rationale, explained in an Executive Order, is interesting. ‘Individual vaccination records are private health information which should not be shared by mandate,’ it says.
‘So-called Covid-19 vaccine passports restrict individual freedom and will harm privacy. Requiring so-called Covid-19 vaccine passports for taking part in everyday life – such as attending a sporting event, patronising a restaurant or going to a movie theatre – would create two classes of citizen based on vaccination.