To hear some people tell it, vaccine passports are just another effort by Democrats, progressives and Satan to take away your freedom, just like when they told you to wear a mask and made you shut down your business.

In a hyperventilating Wall Street Journal op-ed a couple of weeks ago, two medical school professors lit viciously into the idea of vaccine passports, calling them, among other things, “a coercive scheme to encourage vaccination.”

But vaccine passports aren’t coercive. And as for encouraging vaccination, would that be such a bad thing?

The United States will remain at risk until we reach herd immunity, which means we need somewhere between 70% and 85% of Americans to get vaccinated. If protecting themselves isn’t enough to encourage people to get the shot, perhaps changing the incentives will be.

A vaccine passport, for those who haven’t been following this bit of partisan warfare, is an official credential of inoculation. The idea is that once people get their inoculations, the “passports” would grant them access to venues denied to those without them. Airlines, sports stadiums, concert halls, malls, office complexes or schools, for example, might decide to allow only those with vaccine passports. The passports would be digital, for the most part — an app on your phone, say, that you could flash for entry.

Countries from Britain to Israel to Singapore to Aruba are moving toward — or already using — some form of vaccine passports.

I have trouble seeing what’s coercive about them. Vaccines would still be an option, not a mandate. Like a driver’s license. If you want to drive a car, you need to get a license, for safety’s sake. But if you don’t feel like getting a license, that’s OK too — you also have the option of not driving a car.

Similarly, if you want your child to attend public school, you need to prove that he or she has been inoculated. If you’re not willing to have your child be vaccinated for the safety of others, you have the option of home-schooling.

It would be the same with vaccine passports. If you wanted to go back to concert arenas and crowded theaters, you’d get yourself vaxxed and claim your passport. If you preferred to opt out, you could do that.

From the start, the main justification for vaccine passports has been the straightforward one: People who are vaccinated are very unlikely to contract the virus or to infect others. So it makes sense that they should be allowed to fly on planes around the world, go to crowded sporting events and concerts — whereas unvaccinated people are both more vulnerable and more dangerous to others. Passports offer a way of reopening the economy with a minimum of risk.

But I actually find their potential as a “nudge” to get people to do the right thing equally compelling.

An NPR/Marist poll this month found that 1 in 4 Americans said they would reject a COVID-19 vaccine if offered one.

But simply knowing that, without vaccinations, they couldn’t enter their local bar or attend a concert or board an overseas flight might be enough to persuade many hesitant people to get inoculated.

Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein and University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler have long written about this kind of nudge. The two academics, who have a particular interest in behavioral economics, have argued that it is often possible to help people make smart decisions for themselves and society by subtly nudging them in the proper direction. Without heavy-handed mandates, but through “libertarian paternalism,” as Sunstein and Thaler have called it, people can be encouraged, maneuvered or incentivized toward making the best possible choices.

Thaler has called vaccine passports a “perk” for those who have been inoculated.

Vaccine passports would have been wrong when only a small portion of the population had been deemed eligible for vaccination. And they still shouldn’t be required for those under 16, who aren’t eligible, or those with medical conditions prohibiting vaccinations. Also, for the proposal to work fairly, every one who wants a vaccination should have access to one.

But today, with virtually every American 16 or over eligible for a shot, those who aren’t vaccinated are increasingly those who choose not to be because they can’t be bothered or they don’t see the advantage of it or because they harbor unreasonable fears about the risks.

The Biden administration has already said it will not press for a mandatory national vaccine credential. And a number of Republican governors have called for bans on them in their states.

But the reality is, vaccine requirements are already upon us. Last week, the University of California and California State University said that they would require all students, faculty and staff who are on campus this fall to be vaccinated. And the president of the European Commission suggested that if Americans wanted to travel to Europe this summer, they would have to show that they had been inoculated.

I’m not eager to live in a society where some people have privileges that others do not. But if we find we can’t reach herd immunity in the midst of this once-in-a-lifetime crisis because some people aren’t behaving responsibly, vaccine passports could play a crucial role.

(8) comments


Good piece. Very rational.

Those who choose not to get vaccinated must accept that for their safety -- and the safety of others -- there are places they cannot go.


Sadly, there is so much misinformation about these so called covid "vaccines" which are not a vaccine in any sense of a legal or medical definition of a true vaccine and this commentary is so misinformed. These are biological therapies, however, that have failed tremendously in the past attempts. The censorship about treatments were shut down right from the start, especially those using expired meds well, because they are cheap. There has been no allowance for real experts to even discuss options, only what Fauci and bought off MSM by Pharma wants you to hear. Real herd immunity comes from natural exposure, not vaccines. I had measles, chicken pox, and mumps as a kid and didn't need to get multiple vaccines to make me immune. Kids now a days have to get multiple vaccines for what I experienced only once. So those of who are so beaten into submission without understanding what is being sold to you by big pharma, so sad.


How about citing some sources for your beliefs?

From: "Dr. Daniel Salmon, who is trained in vaccinology and is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, explained that vaccines are preventive “and a preventative vaccine is something you give to your body that stimulates an immune response, so when you're exposed to the natural infection, your body will already be prepared to respond.” “Certainly, the COVID vaccines fall into that category of being preventative vaccines,” he added. He also dismissed the claims that the vaccines will alter a patient's DNA. “People think ‘oh my God, it's gonna change my DNA, or it's somehow altering my DNA,' and that's not the case at all. If you think about it, if you eat an apple, you've just eaten the DNA of an apple, that doesn't mean that it's going to change your DNA, it's certainly not going to turn you into an apple.”"

MOre importantly, here is an article to debunk what you claim: In it, it states "Here we go again – I keep seeing the new anti-vaccine claim that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are not, in fact, vaccines but are either “medical devices” or “gene therapy.” I keep trying to stay up with every single myth and trope pushed by the anti-vaxxers, but I swear that there’s a new one every day. ... Just to be clear, the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are actually vaccines – they are biological preparations that provide active acquired immunity to an infectious disease, in this case, COVID-19. But, I’m going to have to debunk these myths. ... The CDC also defines vaccines pretty clearly:

Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose...."

It seems clear to me that they are indeed vaccines and have proven to be effective. If you don't want to be vaccinated then maybe you can choose to isolate or maybe we can agree that those who don't get vaccinated be required to where a large red "I" plainly visible from a distance.


“Blending in” among the vaccinated is already easier. When everyone around you is vaccinated, not being vaccinated seems even safer than you thought it was from the beginning. So you were right. So why get vaccinated now. You have health concerns. Or maybe the Pope getting vaccinated still doesn’t resolve your “ethical” issues. Or nobody you know has died yet. Or seeing stacks of flaming piles of bodies in India on TV just reminds you that their funeral customs always were different, albeit on a smaller scale. So don’t get it. It was always all about you.


Those who want to make it a partisan political issue, like wearing masks became, as just going to do it because they want to make everything they possibly can a partisan issue. I have no problem with keeping those who don't get vaccinated from enjoying the same freedoms in a pandemic that those of us who do get vaccinated enjoy. It makes complete sense from a public health point of view, but "public" anything to some people is an unjustified infringement on their personal rights, especially when it actually is justified.

Greg F

Agree. You have to have an immunization record presented to travel overseas to many locations. You have to have vaccinations to get kids to schools. This disease is an imminent threat of serious illness and/or death. I see that WV is providing $100 to anyone under 35 who got vaccinated. I think that's $ well spent to incentivize those who are reluctant. No, I don't want to put the scarlet A on somebody....but I sure would not want some anti-vax Qanon follower running rampant while infected asymptomatically and keep this plague going on any longer than it already has because of their sheer stupidity or belief in unicorns.


I agree that that is money well spent.


I think people should have a scarlet letter "I" not "A" put on them. I think anyone who chooses not to get vaccinated and goes out in public should either be required to identify themselves as non-vaccinated or pay a fine for placing others at risk, their choice.

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