Privacy & Security

“Vaccine Passports” and Your Rights

Our January article on vaccines and “informed consent” was easily one of the most controversial we have ever published. And just as we predicted, “vaccine passports” (or “immunity passports”) showing proof of vaccination for COVID-19 are now being introduced. They’re increasingly required for crossing international borders and are catching on domestically as well, albeit with considerable political pushback.

Before COVID, most countries didn’t allow visitors to enter if they were visibly ill or carried a contagious disease. A few countries even required proof of vaccination against certain diseases, such as yellow fever. These requirements have been greatly strengthened in the COVID era.

It’s no longer enough to have the “right” passport allowing you to enter the country. You also must show “proof of health” in the form of a negative COVID test and increasingly, proof of receiving an “approved” COVID vaccination.

For instance, while Canada remains closed for “non-essential” travel from the United States, the government has announced the border will reopen August 9. But unless you’ve had a COVID vaccination, you won’t be able to enter the country. (There are exceptions for children under 12 and dependents of fully vaccinated travelers.) On the other hand, while the US land border with Mexico remains closed to non-essential travel, if you fly in, there’s no testing, vaccination, or quarantine required.

For countries like Canada requiring vaccination proof, it’s not enough to get jabbed. You must have received an approved vaccine. For Canada, that means submitting proof you’ve received the Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine on a health declaration form. If you got the vaccine from any other source (e.g., the Russian or Chinese vaccines), you don’t qualify.

The European Union has introduced what it calls a “COVID-19 passport.” It will be made available to all EU citizens and residents as well as travelers from some countries outside the EU, including the United States. And while some EU countries still allow unvaccinated American tourists to enter (e.g., Ireland), you must arrive with a negative COVID test and self-quarantine for five days upon arrival. However, we anticipate that once the EU’s COVID passport system is fully implemented, you won’t be able to enter without proof of vaccination.

Even if you don’t plan to travel internationally, you might be required to get the COVID vaccine as a condition to work or for your children to attend school or university. Here in Arizona, Banner Health, the largest employer in the state, has announced all employees must be vaccinated by November 1. San Francisco has mandated that all city employees receive the vaccine. And last week, a federal judge upheld a COVID vaccination mandate imposed by Indiana University on its students, faculty, and staff. At least 500 other colleges and universities have similar requirements.

Indeed, even if you just plan to socialize or go out to a club, you might be asked for proof of a COVID vaccination. I was recently invited to a party – but only if I’d been vaccinated. And in New York City, customers must produce vaccine documentation to enter the City Winery restaurant and tasting room.

Naturally, there’s been considerable pushback over these requirements. For instance, City Winery has no plans to require proof of a COVID shot at its Atlanta and Nashville facilities. As CEO Michael Darf explained, “we would have no business, because so many people are basically against it.”

Indeed, at least 13 states have already passed laws limiting the circumstances under which someone needs to disclose their vaccination status. Several states – including Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, and Texas – also prohibit most businesses from requiring their customers to be vaccinated. Similar measures are under consideration in 21 other states.

If you don’t want to get vaccinated – for whatever reason – what are your options? You could forego international travel or move to a state that doesn’t enforce restrictions against unvaccinated people. Or you could buy a fake COVID vaccination certificate. Prices start as low as $20. Alternatively, we understand there are doctors who will sign a letter stating you have a medical condition that won’t allow you to be vaccinated, even if you don’t really have it.

As libertarians, we believe that the requirements for vaccine passports and similar measures represent the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent.” Our concern is that vaccine passports and similar initiatives may eventually require you to demonstrate not only that you have received not only the COVID-19 vaccination, but a laundry list of other vaccinations.

As well, we maintain that the case for “informed consent” – the right to refuse a medical procedure or treatment in light of evaluating the facts as you understand them – is unassailable. In the context of forced vaccination, the one exception would be in the face of an epidemic comparable to one caused by smallpox or other disease of similar severity – one with a far higher fatality rate than COVID-19.

After all, the most basic right we have in ourselves is that of self-ownership; individual sovereignty over our own bodies and lives. We shouldn’t give up that right lightly.

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