Why vac­ci­na­tion pas­sports are a dan­ge­ro­us idea — Part 2

If some­one deci­des aga­inst vac­ci­na­tion, the­ir deci­sion sho­uld be respec­ted. It would be unfa­ir to deny entry to restau­rants and tra­vel sim­ply for making a per­so­nal health choice

By Brian Giesbrecht
Senior Fellow
Fron­tier Cen­tre for Public Poli­cy
Vac­ci­na­tion pas­sports are being touted as the answer to get­ting our tra­vel indu­stry and other busi­nesses up and run­ning aga­in after the COVID-19 pan­de­mic. You would sim­ply pro­du­ce the­ir papers and air­li­ne tic­kets could be pur­cha­sed, access gained to restau­rants, hoc­key games, etc. Why would any­one object to such a sen­si­ble pro­po­sal? Becau­se the idea makes no sen­se. The­se vac­ci­nes work. The unvac­ci­na­ted pose no thre­at to the vac­ci­na­ted. The only people at any real risk of infec­tion are the mino­ri­ty who cho­ose not to be vac­ci­na­ted. The reaso­ning used by govern­ment during the pan­de­mic – that people must be for­ced to com­ply with restric­tions to pre­vent hospi­tals from being over­whel­med – will no lon­ger apply. The­re­fo­re, there’s no legi­ti­ma­te case for pre­ven­ting entry to tho­se witho­ut pas­sports. But the­re are many other reasons why vac­ci­na­tion pas­sports are a bad idea.

For one, they have the poten­tial to cau­se gre­at unfa­ir­ness. Parents will shor­tly have to deci­de whe­ther to vac­ci­na­te the­ir chil­dren. This will be a very dif­fi­cult deci­sion for some. It invo­lves weighing the bene­fits of vac­ci­na­tion aga­inst the possi­ble risks. In the case of chil­dren and teens, who very sel­dom even get sick with this coro­na­vi­rus, it won’t be unre­aso­na­ble for many parents to deci­de aga­inst vaccination.

If vac­ci­na­tion pas­sports are requ­ired for chil­dren, fami­lies might be una­ble to tra­vel, watch sports, etc.


Simi­lar­ly, young adults in good health have lit­tle to fear from this dise­ase. Most who beco­me infec­ted will have either no symp­toms or mild ones. If sick, almost all recover.

Many young people and others not so young – par­ti­cu­lar­ly mino­ri­ties and the pre­vio­usly infec­ted – will deci­de not to be vac­ci­na­ted. Eve­ry vac­ci­na­tion car­ries some risk but, if some­one deci­des aga­inst vac­ci­na­tion, the­ir deci­sion sho­uld be respec­ted. It would be unfa­ir to deny entry to restau­rants and tra­vel sim­ply for making a per­so­nal health choice.

Vac­ci­na­tion pas­sports are an unne­ces­sa­ry intru­sion into what’s left of our civil liber­ties – liber­ties that have been sava­ged during this pan­de­mic. We’ve all seen the old shows abo­ut tota­li­ta­rian sta­tes whe­re an offi­cer demands to see one’s papers. That’s whe­re we’re heading with con­cepts like vac­ci­na­tion passports.

The unvac­ci­na­ted will beco­me the new unto­ucha­bles. And if pas­sports demand pro­of of vac­ci­na­tion, they can also be expan­ded to demand pro­of of many other things that are sim­ply none of the government’s busi­ness. Best not to go there.

To his cre­dit, Pri­me Mini­ster Justin Tru­de­au has spo­ken aga­inst govern­ment-man­da­ted vac­ci­na­tion pas­sports. But he sho­uld go fur­ther and adopt Flo­ri­da Gov. Ron DeSantis’s plan to ban cor­po­ra­tion-man­da­ted pas­sports as well. This would pre­vent discri­mi­na­tion aga­inst tho­se who cho­ose not to be vaccinated.

The only logi­cal case that can be made for vac­ci­na­tion pas­sports is as a tem­po­ra­ry measu­re, that is until eve­ry­one who wants a shot is vac­ci­na­ted. But as we’ve seen with pro­mi­ses like “two weeks to flat­ten the curve,” tem­po­ra­ry powers tend to beco­me permanent.

Muta­tions of COVID will pro­ba­bly return each flu season. Hope­ful­ly, the­se variants will beco­me weaker with time. Per­haps it will even­tu­al­ly beco­me just ano­ther varie­ty of the annoy­ing com­mon cold. We also hope that the vac­ci­nes can be adju­sted to deal with the new variants that occur.

Regar­dless, vac­ci­na­tion pas­sports are a bad idea.

Brian Gies­brecht, reti­red jud­ge, is a senior fel­low at the Fron­tier Cen­tre for Public Policy.

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