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Framing vaccine passports as ‘restoring freedom’ will divide & conquer opposition: WEF Agenda [Deleted]

World Economic Forum Agenda omits opposition arguments as WHO warns vaccine passports ‘may increase risk of disease spread’: perspective

framing divide and conquer
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When a pro-vaccine passport argument is about “restoring freedom” and not about “public health,” what does that tell you about the argument?

A World Economic Forum (WEF) Agenda blog post suggests that by framing vaccine passports as a way of “restoring freedom,” it will divide and conquer the opposition.

“In this context [Australia], introducing vaccine passports can be framed as restoring freedom to those who are vaccinated. With this framing, opposition to passports will be divided between two groups” — WEF Agenda, September, 2021

In the context of Australia, framing the vaccine passport argument as a way of “restoring freedom to those who are vaccinated” will divide the opposition into two groups, writes Australian economist and professor at the University of Queensland John Quiggin in the WEF Agenda blog.

  • Group One:hardcore anti-vaxers and opponents of any public health mandate, who want to resist any push for vaccination
  • Group Two:those who think even the much smaller risks posed by fully vaccinated people are too great to bear

Update, September 7, 2021: The WEF has now removed the article in question from the Agenda blog. The story can still be found on The Conversation here.


By lumping the opposition into those who oppose public health mandates and resist vaccination pushes, the article oversimplifies the opposition and omits several key counterarguments, along with the WHO’s warning that COVID vaccine passports may actually increase the risk of disease spread.

“While vaccine passports will be seen by some as a way to increase freedom, for those without a passport they would constitute a denial of liberties that others are being granted” — Ada Lovelace Institute, February, 2021

In making the case, the article understandably equates arguments against vaccine passports as being against the vaccines themselves.

While there is much overlap between the two, a person can simultaneously be pro-vaccine as a personal choice, but fervently against vaccine passports.

The WEF article on pro-vaccine passport framing omits several key oppositional arguments, such as:

“The extent to which each vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to susceptible individuals remains to be assessed” — World Health Organization, August, 2021

The article’s argument in favor of vaccine passports is about framing them as “restoring freedom” to divide the opposition.

What does that have to do with public health at all?

Again, vaccine passports carry a whole set of separate ethical and medical issues, many of which are different from the issues of vaccines alone.

Freedom is what is fundamentally at stake with vaccine passports (i.e. freedom of choice, freedom to participate in society, etc.), and the article’s argument is predicated on the idea that it’s OK to take away the freedom of millions of people to choose.

But those who oppose vaccine passports say it was never OK to take away that freedom in the first place, and the opposition is made up of much more than “hardcore anti-vaxers.”

“This division makes it even less likely that effective opposition will emerge” — WEF Agenda, September, 2021

What’s more, the WEF contributor believes that once divided, the opposition will be less effective.

“To confuse things, some people may switch between one argument and the other depending on the audience,” he writes.

“This division makes it even less likely that effective opposition will emerge.”

He may be right here, in that there are so many arguments against vaccine passports that they could confuse the messaging and cause further division.

Or, he could be wrong, in that there are so many arguments against vaccine passports that they become impossible to ignore.

“Protesters might make some noise, but in practice the biggest hurdle for vaccine passports will likely be the administrative failures that have plagued every aspect of Australia’s response” — WEF Agenda, September, 2021

Most people just want their freedom back, and they see two paths they can take.

For some, the quick and easy path is to do what the government says and wait for their freedom to be given back.

For others, it means taking to the streets to take their freedom back.

The WEF Agenda contributor writes that the biggest obstacle to vaccine passports won’t be the people who risk arrest protesting the Australian government, but rather failures on the part of the administration.

“Protesters might make some noise, but in practice the biggest hurdle for vaccine passports will likely be the administrative failures that have plagued every aspect of Australia’s response,” writes Quiggin.

“There’s going to be a vaccinated economy, and you get to participate in that if you are vaccinated” — Dan Andrews, Premier of Victoria, Australia

Now that Australian premiers are threatening to block anyone who isn’t vaccinated from participating in society, there is even more pressure on the Australian people to get in line, which may or may not prove Quiggin to be right about the effects of framing.

However, no amount of framing can change the fact that the COVID shots have never been proven to prevent transmission and that people don’t like being coerced into getting medical treatment in exchange for a carrot-on-a-stick promise of freedom that is always just out of reach.

“We’re going to move to situation where, to protect the health system, we’re going to lockout people who are not vaccinated and can be” — Dan Andrews, Premier of Victoria, Australia

“A health pass raises a distinct set of risks because of current scientific uncertainties regarding COVID-19 vaccines” — World Health Organization, August, 2021

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a 99-page guide book for governments to follow with their vaccine passport rollouts.

The guidance report, funded in-part by the Gates and Rockefeller foundations, warns that due to “scientific uncertainties” surrounding the COVID-19 jabs, “Use of a DDCC:VS [Digital Documentation of COVID-19 Certificates: Vaccination Status] as a health pass based solely on individual vaccination status may increase the risk of disease spread.”

In other words, the WHO acknowledges that COVID vaccine passports may increase the risk of disease spread because the jabs themselves have never been proven to prevent transmission.

According to the report, “Use of a DDCC:VS as a health pass raises a distinct set of risks because of current scientific uncertainties regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

“While COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated efficacy and effectiveness in preventing severe disease and death, the extent to which each vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to susceptible individuals remains to be assessed.

How long each vaccine confers protection against severe disease and against infection, and how well each protects against current and future variants of SARS-CoV-2 needs to be regularly assessed.”

“There are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission and limited availability of vaccines” — World Health Organization, January, 2021

The WHO has been repeating the same message all year.

In January, 2021 the WHO put out an announcement saying that vaccine passports for international travel weren’t justified because, “There are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission and limited availability of vaccines.”

That remains true today.

What is the point of a vaccine passport if vaccinated individuals are still getting sick and spreading the virus while those who have recovered from COVID-19 will most likely produce antibodies for the rest of their lives?

The WHO guide book for government vaccine rollouts acknowledges:

  • Vaccine passport data may be used for surveillance purposes
  • Vaccine passports may actually increase the spread of COVID
  • Vaccine passport mandates may increase vaccine hesitancy

Once again omitting the above, the WEF contributor says that the vaccine passport argument is a matter of framing.

However, the UK-based Ada Lovelace Institute think tank concluded in February, 2021 that any current rollout of a digital was passport was not justified for several reasons, including a lack of evidence on preventing transmission and that vaccine passports risk normalizing health surveillance.

Those reasons remain valid today.

“The expert group came to the view that, at present, vaccination status does not offer clear or conclusive evidence about any individual’s risk to others via transmission […] therefore any roll out of a digital passport is not currently justified” — Ada Lovelace Institute Interim Report, February, 2021

“The expert group came to the view that, at present, vaccination status does not offer clear or conclusive evidence about any individual’s risk to others via transmission,” the Ada Lovelace Institute interim report reads.

“Without that, it cannot be a robust basis for risk-based decision making, and therefore any roll out of a digital passport is not currently justified.”

The interim report went on to say, “It is likely that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) will become endemic, like seasonal flu and other infectious disease-causing pathogens (or even better contained, like measles, or even eliminated), at which point it will no longer require the emergency and intrusive measures justified by its present transmissibility and fatality.

“Accepting this as a reasonable scientific expectation for the near future, raises concerns about the longevity of emergency apparatus, and that such infrastructure – once built – will not be stripped back.”

“There were particular concerns in the expert group that digital identity systems could be introduced as part of an emergency infrastructure, but used for different or expanded purposes” — Ada Lovelace Institute Interim Report, February, 2021

Here we see one of the many arguments against vaccine passports that the article does not address — the risk of a growing surveillance and police state that is given never ending emergency powers that trample all over the rights of citizens.

The WHO is aware of this as well, saying in the guide book that the very introduction of vaccine passports will most likely make people even more hesitant to take the jab.

According to the WHO, the introduction of vaccine passports “may also increase vaccine hesitancy because of privacy and other concerns that the vaccination record could be linked to personal data and be used for functions other than those originally intended (e.g. surveillance of individual health status), or be used by unintended third parties (e.g. immigration, commercial entities, researchers).”

“We find that the introduction of vaccine passports will likely lower inclination to accept a COVID-19 vaccine once baseline vaccination intent has been adjusted for. Notably, this decrease is larger if passports were required for domestic use rather than for facilitating international travel” — Survey for publication in the Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine

This backs up a study to be published in The Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine journal that states:

“We find that the introduction of vaccine passports will likely lower inclination to accept a COVID-19 vaccine once baseline vaccination intent has been adjusted for.

“Notably, this decrease is larger if passports were required for domestic use rather than for facilitating international travel.”

Despite all the warnings (including its own), the WHO still went ahead and published 99 pages to guide governments in their vaccine passport rollouts.

“It’s not going to be safe for people who are not vaccinated to be roaming around the place spreading the virus. That’s what they’ll be doing” — Dan Andrews, Premier of Victoria, Australia

By not acknowledging most of the key oppositional arguments to vaccine passports, the article says that it’s just a matter of framing.

The argument assumes that freedom isn’t a fundamental human right, that the government can hold freedom hostage indefinitely during an emergency, and that it’s perfectly acceptable that people must be coerced into taking a medical procedure in order to win back their freedom.

And there are plenty of people in Australia and the rest of the world who are willing to go along with that.

But how can you frame any argument for vaccine passports as being valid that doesn’t take into account the freedom of choice, the fact that COVID vaccines don’t prevent transmission, and the glaring evidence that vaccine passports will lead to a two-tiered society under a system of social credit fueled by digital identity schemes that monitor and police your every move?

“There’s going to be a vaccinated economy, and you get to participate in that if you are vaccinated” — Dan Andrews, Premier of Victoria, Australia

The WEF contributor highlighted the anti-vaccine passport sentiment sweeping across Europe as an example where vaccine “passports have been framed as restricting the freedom of the unvaccinated to do things for which the passport is now required.”

Therefore, “Resistance has been expressed primarily in these terms.”

When it comes to Australia, the “restoring freedom” framing proposal to divide and conquer the opposition may or may not work out.

But this type of messaging inadvertently serves as a warning to the rest of the world about what happens to citizens when they allow their government to control just about every aspect of their lives, including what they do with their own bodies.

As Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said, “There’s going to be a vaccinated economy, and you get to participate in that if you are vaccinated.”

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is the editor of The Sociable. His passions include writing about how technology impacts society and the parallels between Artificial Intelligence and Mythology. Previously, he was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co