Globally the news this week has been full of questions over the COVID-19 vaccine. Which countries are ‘doing well’ at the roll out, which are pausing their vaccination programme due to fears over side-effects, and what happens once vaccinations are complete?
In the UK, it was declared that travelling abroad without due cause would result in heavy fines; the government later admitted that it’s considering introducing vaccine passports for the British hospitality industry. The suggestion has stirred up heated debate and it’s not clear which side has the stronger claim – here we’re going to summarise both sides of the vaccine passports in hospitality argument.
In the UK, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said this week that the basic concept of vaccine certification “shouldn’t be totally alien to us.” He’s right in a sense; having to prove your immunity to a disease (as a result of vaccination) isn’t particularly unusual. Travelling internationally often requires proof of immunity to Yellow Fever, for which vaccinated persons carry a small certificate within their passport. It’s not even unheard of for workers to demonstrate evidence of a vaccination; doctors and nurses in the UK have to show they have antibodies against hepatitis B to work in the National Health Service (NHS).
One of the arguments against vaccine passports in hospitality is the right to privacy, however if the passports were to take the form of a “digital health certificate” in the form of a QR code, this can be navigated. The code could be shown to authorities without revealing sensitive identifying information, such as the holder’s name or address.
Of course, the greatest argument for rolling out a vaccine passport is that it will encourage people to head out and spend money, kickstarting economies which are suffering worldwide, and giving communities a sense of normality back.
While there is a basic question regarding a lack of evidence over whether vaccinated people could still spread the virus, the key arguments against vaccine passports, unsurprisingly, mirror the reasons for them.
First there is a question of ethics. By giving select people a label that allows them more freedom than others, we risk creating a distinction between individuals based on their health status. This is especially tricky when some people cannot have the vaccine for medical reasons. Such people should not be discriminated against. Closely related are the complex ethical issues which would need to be considered before making a decision on “mandating people to have such a thing, or indeed banning people from doing such a thing”.
Privacy campaigner Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group has stated that vaccine passports have the potential to be “extremely discriminatory and invasive of personal privacy” and could be used to introduce ID cards by the back door.
There’s also a concern over whether operators should hold responsibility for checking the guests have been vaccinated or not. It’s an extra administrative burden to place on a group that are already jumping through hoops in order to open safely.
Whether you’re for vaccine passports in hospitality or not, the most important factor during the reopening of pubs, restaurants, hotels and the rest of the industry is looking after the health and safety of customers and staff. That’s something Theravada can help with; contact us now to see what technologies and services we can provide your brand.