Digital Vaccine Passports Pose Serious Legal Questions

Historically, legislators have struggled to keep up with the fast-pace of digital technologies. In response to the global pandemic, however, governments are stepping in with a plan to introduce digital vaccine passports in order to reopen economies.

Vaccine passports are certificates that prove people have either been vaccinated, tested negative for Covid-19 or have recovered from the virus.

The plan is for people to store the certificates on their mobile phones. Anybody wishing to return to normal life such as travel or eating out at restaurants will have to produce a digital vaccine certificate to gain entry on planes, buses, restaurant and other public domains.

Codenamed, Vaccination Credential Initiative, the project’s aim is to allow countries to return to a regular lifestyle by developing a standard model that is trustworthy, traceable and verifiable.

However, forcing people to take Covid-19 vaccinations have divided opinion. Critics argue there is a clear violation of human rights. Unless citizens can produce a digital health passport they will be frozen out of enjoying a regular lifestyle.

The International Air Transport Association has already announced passengers will have to produce a digital passport before they are allowed to travel.

Although vaccination certificates are already regulated by international law, forcing people to carry digital certificate poses more questions than it provides answers.

Criticism of Digital Health Passports

Critics have raised concerns that digital health passports invade privacy, eliminates the freedom of choice and discriminates against people that have not already recovered from coronavirus.

Specialists in digital health laws have warned the vaccination passports may prompt people to behave irresponsibly in an attempt to catch the disease so they qualify for a digital health certificate without having to be vaccinated.

A large percentage of the world population are against being vaccinated for Covid-19. Scientific and political grounding for Covid-19 vaccinations is disputed and the sluggish response by European governments to purchase the new vaccines has been telling.

Distrust is most notable in France where 46% of the population said they will refuse Covid-19 vaccinations. Time Magazine reports that hardline anti-vaccine protestors in France have pinned death threats to the doors of clinics administering the shots.

Serbians also intend to take a stance against the introduction of mandatory testing with 48% of the population confirming they will boycott any government mandate to force vaccinations.

Citizens in countries such as the US and the UK have been more tolerant. In Britain, only 16% of the population are against being vaccinated. A further 12% prefer to wait to see how early adopters respond.

The introduction of health passports may prompt public sentiment to change quickly. If people are refused entry into shops and restaurants, and not permitted to travel, they have no option other than to bow down to political power or stay at home.

Digital health passports raise privacy concerns and essentially deny people the freedom of choice. People that do not own smartphones will also be excluded from society.

Legal specialists warn that mandating vaccinations so citizens have access to public services is discriminatory, an affront to civil rights and could lead to civil unrest.