Lionel Shriver Lionel Shriver

Why the government was right to drop vaccine passports

Calculation of risk belongs in the hands of the people

12 Sept 2021: Health Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that the government is shelving its plans to introduce mandatory domestic vaccine passports (details here). Below is Lionel Shriver’s column from August 2021, in which she argues vaccine passports were always a bad tool for tackling Covid-19.

Despite having mocked app-happy Albion in my last column, I finally downloaded the NHS app. (Lest I seem a raging hypocrite, the institutional app is quite distinct from the Track-and-Trace Covid one, possession of which marks you as insane.) I found the app’s elaborate security features for registration bitterly comical. I had to photograph my passport, then record a video of myself speaking four prescribed numbers to affirm that my face matches my ID. These uploads provide the dirt-birds who’ve hacked the NHS before still more means of stealing my identity and medical records.

But never mind, because I’d no choice. I’ve an author’s tour of France in September. To get my mitts on even a lowly Croque Monsieur in Macron’s bastille, I’ll need to prove my Covid bona fides. Even here in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wormy Big Apple, by next week I’ll also have to furnish proof of vaccination to grab an even lowlier grilled cheese sandwich — though it remains to be seen whether AstraZeneca’s elixir, still not approved in the US, will suffice to make me customer-worthy in New York diners. I guess it’s fortunate I’m a dab hand at grilling my own cheese sandwich.

If both classes of citizen can still get and spread the virus, vaccination is not an act of noble altruism

Now that vaccine passports are already coming to a theatre near you, it’s ironic that Public Health England (PHE) has just released figures that cast this whole wheat-from-chaff project as scientifically daft. Extrapolating from data, vaccines appear to protect the over-fifties from Delta infection by a paltry 17 per cent.

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