COVID vaccine passports threaten fundamental rights of citizens who opt-out
Digital inclusion invites physical exclusion: Op-ed
With COVID vaccine passports being touted by governments, major airlines, and globalist think tanks as the best way to re-open travel and economic activities, these digital tools threaten the fundamental rights of citizens who opt-out.
Author’s Note: I am not against vaccines in any way, nor do I dispute the opinions of medical experts. This is a story about the individual’s right to choose what they put in their body, and how COVID vaccine passports threaten to take away universal human rights should a citizen choose to opt-out.
Many will argue that COVID vaccine passports are absolutely necessary to ensure safe travel and economic activities, and that if everybody would just agree to take the experimental jab and sign up for the app, life would be a lot easier for everybody.
However, COVID vaccine passport advocates ubiquitously disregard the right of the individual to choose what they put in their body, and believe that people who refuse to participate should be denied certain liberties because that is what society expects.
According to London School of Economics (LSE) associate professor Joan Costa-Font, vaccine passports “exemplify a social norm that individuals are expected to comply with” as if people who refuse the jab lose out on this type of social credit.
“Vaccine passports can be used as an incentive to change behavior. They not only provide some direct benefits, but they signal what society expects from individuals. They exemplify a social norm that individuals are expected to comply with” — Joan Costa-Font, London School of Economics
The LSE author is optimistic that vaccine passports can be an “incentive to change behavior.”
Others argue they can change behavior by way of coercion in that they threaten to exclude those who don’t ascribe to their use from participating in certain activities that are guaranteed to all citizens under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In my view, the issuance of COVID vaccine passports skirts several several human rights guaranteed in the UN declaration, including:
- Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country (Article 13).
- Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state (Article 13).
- Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits (Article 27).
- Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country (Article 21).
- Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person (Article 3).
Nowhere in the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does it say that these rights depend upon whether or not someone gets injected with a vaccine.
“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
The UN declaration is quite clear when it says everyone has the right to travel and participate freely in the cultural life of the community — not just those who sign up for a COVID vaccine passport.
When asked recently about a passport that would allow those inoculated to attend cultural events, France24 reported that French Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot was unequivocal in her disapproval, saying it would be “an attack on our freedoms.”
“As a freedom-lover, I can hardly imagine it. If it came to that, it would be a step backwards,” she said.
Over a dozen European countries have either begun issuing, or are in the process of asking for, vaccination certificates as of February 4, 2021.
‘My Body, My Choice’
Now, you might argue that traditional passports have always been required for most people to travel internationally and that COVID vaccine passports would be applied similarly.
However, the big difference is that the issuance of a physical passport doesn’t require the traveler to participate in an experimental vaccine for eligibility.
On paper, certain rights are guaranteed, but in practice they often come with a lot of tradeoffs — you still have to be able to afford the passport, tickets, and visa fees when applicable, and you have to have some form of valid ID.
“The principle of bodily integrity sums up the right of each human being, including children, to autonomy and self-determination over their own body. It considers an unconsented physical intrusion as a human rights violation” — Child Rights International Network
But whereas many tradeoffs are financial in nature, the tradeoffs for COVID vaccine passports are a lot more personal, and forcing an experimental vaccine upon someone who doesn’t want it flies in the face of their right to bodily autonomy and integrity.
“My body, my choice” is a phrase often associated with women’s reproductive rights, but the concept can also apply to all citizens having a choice over what they put in their bodies.
The European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights Article 3: Right to Integrity of the Person states:
- Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity.
- In the fields of medicine and biology, the following must be respected in particular:
(a) the free and informed consent of the person concerned, according to the procedures laid down by law;
(b) the prohibition of eugenic practices, in particular those aiming at the selection of persons;
(c) the prohibition on making the human body and its parts as such a source of financial gain;
(d) the prohibition of the reproductive cloning of human beings.
If bodily autonomy and integrity are fundamental human rights, then any debate on the issuance of COVID vaccine passports should agree on the informed consent of the individual and not mandatory adoption or coercion coming from any government or corporation.
According to the Child Rights International Network (CRIN), “The principle of bodily integrity sums up the right of each human being, including children, to autonomy and self-determination over their own body. It considers an unconsented physical intrusion as a human rights violation.”
“Practices which violate a child’s bodily integrity include all forms of physical violence, ranging from corporal punishment to forced medical treatment, sometimes against a child’s express wishes.”
“Everyone has the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity. In the fields of medicine and biology, the following must be respected in particular: the free and informed consent of the person concerned, according to the procedures laid down by law” — EU Charter of Fundamental Rights
While forced medical treatment on children is considered a violation of the child’s integrity, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that “Moderna Inc. has begun studying its Covid-19 vaccine in children aged six months to 11 years in the US and Canada, the latest effort to widen the mass-vaccination campaign beyond adults.”
Would this not be a violation of the child’s bodily integrity?
Again, this isn’t argument against vaccines; it is an argument about the individual’s right to choose what they put in their body without fear of losing basic, fundamental freedoms.
“Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits” — UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Proponents say COVID vaccine passports should be equally available to everyone and that everyone should want them, and therefore the challenge lies in their equitable distribution.
For example, Costa-Font from LSE believes that “for vaccine passports to be fair, everyone should have had the chance of being vaccinated, at no major cost, or else passports become potentially discriminatory,” but that “in any event, discrimination would be only temporary whilst the vaccination rollout allows everyone to have the chance to take the jab.”
In other words, discrimination would come in the form of people missing out on getting the vaccine, but to me the real discrimination would also be against those who opt-out.
From what I see, most COVID vaccine passport advocates do not take into account:
- A citizen’s right to sovereignty over what they put into their own body
- COVID vaccine passports can be discriminatory against those who opt-out
- There is no evidence the experimental COVID-19 vaccines prevent human-to-human transmission
- How COVID vaccine passports fit into digital identity schemes for systems of social credit
Most arguments in favor of COVID vaccine passports disregard the right of the individual to choose whether or not they want to get the jab in the first place.
Proponents make some very big assumptions, such as:
- COVID vaccine passports are the key to opening back up safely, even though there is no evidence that the experimental vaccines prevent human-to-human transmission.
- Nobody is safe until everybody on the planet is vaccinated despite the huge differences in risk to COVID-19 for each demographic.
- The biggest challenge to widespread COVID vaccine passport adoption is making sure poor countries are able to vaccinate their entire populations just as effectively as rich countries without ever thinking once about the right of the citizen to choose.
- Social responsibility dictates that every citizen has a civic duty to get vaccinated and sign up for the digital passports.
But you can’t talk about issuing COVID vaccine passports without talking about the vaccines themselves, and the reasons why people may be put off from taking an experimental vaccine in the first place.
Using the science and data available, people will view the risks versus rewards of vaccines differently depending on their age, weight, and overall health, along with many other factors that are personal to them.
For many, a one-size-fits-all approach to vaccination and COVID vaccine passports doesn’t make sense for several reasons. Here are a few.
Some People Don’t Want to Feel Like Guinea Pigs
Since the COVID vaccine passport debate relies on people getting the jab first, this section illustrates some of the health and safety tradeoffs that might make people hesitant to get the shot in the first place — because without it there can be no vaccine passports.
Right off the bat, knowing that the vaccines are experimental may put some people off wanting the jab.
One experimental vaccine in particular has been paused in over a dozen countries due to some 30 people out of five million reportedly developing blood clots after receiving the injection.
Medical experts say “there is no causal link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and blood clots.”
But the fact that democratic nations are still putting it on hold shows there is mixed messaging between governments and health experts on the safety of the vaccine, which can be confusing and frustrating to citizens wishing to inform themselves with accurate information.
Even if the vaccines were declared to be 100 percent effective and safe with no side effects whatsoever, some people just don’t want to feel like guinea pigs, especially when they question the motives of the people financing the trials and development and how much big pharma is profiting from the lucrative deals.
Still, others have prided themselves on being guinea pigs in order “to make humanity safer,” only to realize later that they would have second thoughts.
It’s about trust.
For Younger, Healthier People, the Side Effects Can Be Off-Putting
Based on data collected in New York City between March and June, 2020, a recent study suggests that just 13 percent to 18 percent of COVID-19 cases were symptomatic.
This would mean as much as 87 percent of the population wouldn’t have had any symptoms, so why would these people want to risk suffering the side effects of the experimental vaccines, which they could perceive as being more unpleasant for them then having the actual coronavirus itself?
Now, you could argue that asymptomatic people are indeed spreading the virus, and so they should get the shot to protect others, but there’s just one problem with that argument — the vaccines aren’t proven to prevent human-to-human transmission either, so what’s the point?
Additionally, the known, short-term side effects like chills, fever, nausea, hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing may be a deterrent for any healthy individual.
When you consider that there is no legal safety for anyone who suffers any adverse side effects, and therefore no accountability for the drug companies if/when something goes wrong, then you have another reason why people might be hesitant to get the jab.
And since COVID-19 is more harmful to people who are elderly, obese, and/or have comorbidities, the majority of people who don’t fall under those demographics, or who have already developed antibodies, may not see the reward as being greater than the risk.
All of these factors could negate the need for a COVID vaccine passport in the eyes of healthy individuals who are concerned about their bodily autonomy and their basic human rights.
That’s not to say that healthy individuals aren’t lining up to receive their shots in droves because they feel it is for the good of society — they are — and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!
In fact, many polls say that the majority of citizens in places like the UK (65 percent) and Germany (60 percent) are actually in favor of COVID vaccine passports for various domestic activities and international travel.
But again, I argue that people should have the right to choose and not have these measures forced upon them.
Disproportionate Demographics & Mortality Rates
Beyond the potentially unpleasant side effects of the vaccines, many people who catch COVID-19 don’t even know they have it, and the mortality rate is extremely low for most of the population, especially when you break it down by age groups.
According to Statista, “As of March 14, 2021, the number of both confirmed and presumptive positive cases of the COVID-19 disease reported in the United States had reached over 29 million with almost 532 thousand deaths reported among these cases.”
So, if we approximate 532,000 deaths divided by 29 million confirmed/presumptive cases, we get a fatality rate of about 1.8 percent in the United States.
Another way of looking at it is that the survival rate is 98.2 percent for the entire American population, but that’s not to belittle the severe effects the coronavirus can have on those most vulnerable, especially people aged 65 and over, who represent 80 percent of all COVID-19 attributed deaths in the US.
According to the latest reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- 78 percent of people hospitalized for COVID-19 were obese.
- Adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness.
- 80 percent of COVID-related deaths happened to people aged 65 years and older. The risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk.
Both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu hit the elderly hard, and according to Statista, the mortality rate for seniors with influenza aged 65 and up was at 48.7 per 100,000 during the 2018-2019 flu season.
This would mean that people would have to keep updating their COVID vaccine passports on a regular basis with no end in sight.
Once again, I’m not downplaying the severity of the virus. I’m using the science to show how it disproportionately affects certain demographics and why younger and healthier people may consider the risks of COVID vaccine passports not being worth the reward.
As of today, the World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no definitive proof that the vaccines prevent person-to-person transmission, so what’s the point in issuing COVID vaccine passports now if they don’t help stop the spread?
From a health and safety point of view, anyone who is relatively healthy and/or young may be hesitant to accept COVID vaccine passports on the basis that:
- The vaccines are not proven to prevent person-to-person transmission
- The vaccines may have unwanted side effects
- There is no legal protection against any damages caused by the vaccines
- Social distancing and mask wearing would still be required
- The virus reportedly keeps mutating, so ongoing re-vaccination campaigns are likely
I can’t emphasize enough that there isn’t anything wrong with choosing to take a vaccine, but mandating a COVID vaccine passport would take away a person’s choice and right to bodily integrity.
But beyond valid concerns for vaccine hesitancy, there is a digital surveillance side to COVID vaccine passports that is equally worrisome, and this has to do with personal data and institutional overreach.
COVID Vaccine Passports Creep Towards Digital Identity Schemes & Social Credit Systems
The hesitancy to hand personal data over to public and private institutions that may exploit them through enhanced surveillance and digital identity schemes underlines the serious lack of trust that citizens have with big tech, big pharma, and big government.
“Many in power hope to make compliance to digital IDs intertwined with vaccination, if not by force then through coercion” — Andreas Vou, European Data Journalism Network
While industry stakeholders see COVID vaccine passports as an opportunity to get people moving and working again, concerned citizens worry that these health status apps will be tied to a digital identity scheme, which can “determine what products, services and information we can access – or, conversely, what is closed off to us,” according to a 2018 report from the WEF.
A digital identity keeps a record of everything you do online, including what you share on social media, the websites you visit, and your smartphone’s geolocation, and it can house all of the credentials you would normally find in a physical wallet, such as your driver’s license, insurance, and credit cards.
And your digital identity can most certainly be used against you when law enforcement, creditors, and government are involved.
“The social risks of immunity passports are great: it serves as a route to discrimination and exclusion, particularly if the powers to view these passports falls on people’s employers, or the police” — Privacy International
The digital identity agenda picked-up speed throughout 2020, starting with contact tracing and continuing with immunity passports to monitor and control citizen mobility for the greater good.
While tracking, tracing, and proving immunity can be greatly effective in reducing the risk of transmission and protecting those most vulnerable, these digital passports also risk enabling a global surveillance state that tramples over the constitutions of free nations the world over.
“Vaccine passports would create the backbone of an oppressive digital ID system and could easily lead to a health apartheid that’s incompatible with a free and democratic country” — Silkie Carlo, Big Brother Watch
According to Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo, “Vaccine passports would create the backbone of an oppressive digital ID system and could easily lead to a health apartheid that’s incompatible with a free and democratic country.”
“Digital IDs would lead to sensitive records spanning medical, work, travel, and biometric data about each and every one of us being held at the fingertips of authorities and state bureaucrats,” Carlo told The Guardian.
And while digital identities show great promise towards improving the livelihoods of millions, they are also used by authoritarian governments to profile and police citizen behavior, like how the Chinese Communist Party’s enforces its social credit system.
According to Privacy International, “The social risks of immunity passports are great: it serves as a route to discrimination and exclusion, particularly if the powers to view these passports falls on people’s employers, or the police.”
It doesn’t matter if they say it’s for the greater good, no society can truly be free when its citizens are denied the most basic of human rights
I don’t agree with mandatory or coercive rollouts of COVID vaccine passports because I believe in the individual’s right to choose what to put in their body and that nobody should be denied their rights for choosing to abstain.
Furthermore, the notion of COVID vaccine passports being used as stepping stones towards enacting digital identity schemes that run the risk of enabling social credit systems like the one used in Communist China is most alarming to me.
I understand that many people are in favor of vaccine passports, and therefore the vaccines themselves, and I believe that they believe it’s for the greater good.
I can’t argue against that, and I applaud their conviction.
They made their informed choice, and my argument is that they should extend the same courtesy and allow others to make theirs.
Because once we begin to surrender our fundamental freedoms, there’s no guarantee we’ll ever get them back.
There will always be a new crisis ripe for exploitation.
It doesn’t matter if they say their technocratic solution is for the greater good, no society can truly be free when its citizens are denied the most basic of human rights.