Vaccine certificates could help avoid a chaotic post-pandemic world
By Editorial Board,
“FOLLOW THE science” was a proper clarion call last year, and that’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did last week when advising that people who have been fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks in most situations. The science shows that vaccines are working. But the CDC announcement raises another question: How do we know who has been vaccinated and who has not? It’s time to begin making plans to sort this out.
The CDC announcement essentially leaves the question to an honor system. But relying on trust is not very promising in this divided United States. The CDC’s paper vaccination card is not sturdy or authoritative enough. The White House has insisted that the Biden administration will not impose a federal vaccination “passport” of any kind but is leaving the call to others. The solutions taking shape so far are scattershot, and the public is confused. It looks like everyone with a door is in position to decide who passes through.
Some kind of vaccine certificate for domestic use could have real utility, to avoid complete chaos, especially in the digital sphere. If states or private businesses develop them — as
New York is now, for example — the federal government should at least develop common standards, as it does, for example, with electronic medical records. This is important for interoperability — if you get an E-ZPass in Maryland, it works in New York — and to make sure privacy protections are in place.
The Republican governors of Florida and Texas have banned the use of mandatory vaccine certificates, and the Alabama legislature on Monday voted to prohibit requiring any proof of vaccination to enter a business, school or event. Other states are doing the same. Mostly this is ill-advised posturing and blurs the need for validation with the politics of mandates. For day-to-day activities, a vaccine certificate carries more benefit than harm. We accept the need for metal detectors at airports; we accept that cars have mandatory air bags and seat belts; we accept that vaccination is necessary for schools; we accept that restaurants demand shirts and shoes to enter. We understand that driving on a hairpin turn, the guardrails and lane markings are for our own good. Proof of vaccination should be seen as another way for individuals and society to validate a safe public space, just as we do with a pedestrian crosswalk.
It would be wise not to make certificates an obstacle to constitutionally protected activity such as a public demonstration or worship service. It would also be worrisome if they were used wrongly as a tool of stigmatization.
The second step is global travel. The European Union, England, Israel and Canada are working on vaccine passports of some kind. The United States ought to find a way to make its vaccinated citizens fully mobile in the post-pandemic world. We carry a passport abroad, why not a vaccine certificate?
Yes, all of this complicated planning should have started more than a year ago, when the pandemic broke out. The next best time is now.
Read more: Leana S. Wen: The CDC’s mask guidance is a mess. Biden needs to clean it up. Leana S. Wen: Stop calling them ‘vaccine passports’ The Post’s View: No shot, no shoes, no service. We must try to make vaccine passports work. Donna F. Edwards: It’s time for the House to show Marjorie Taylor Greene the door S.E. Smith: No, people aren’t giving up pandemic pets because they’re bored