Both Germany and the UK are working on an immunity passport that essentially clears an individual to return to the workplace. At a time when mandatory stay-at-home orders has shut down many economic sectors, this passport has been discussed as a tool for restoring economic stability.
“Immunity passports” for key workers could be a way of getting people who have had coronavirus back into the workforce more quickly, scientists and politicians in the UK have suggested.The Guardian
It’s a sensible solution. Return citizens to work who have developed an immunity. Without the immunity passport, world governments could delay lifting shutdown orders for additional weeks or even months.
Technological advancements provide society with constant ethical dilemmas. If people get sick and die and a solution was within reach of discovery but no one tries, do we bear the guilt of their deaths? Is not searching for solutions on par with causing direct harm?
The mindset of the scientific greats is akin to my favorite Spider-Man quote:
Look, when you can do the things that I can, but you don’t… and then the bad things happen… they happen because of you.”
Tom Holland, Spider-Man Homecoming
But It’s Not That Simple
On September 22, 2020, the German Ethics Council released an opinion unanimously advising against COVID-19 immunity passports for the time being due to the “many uncertainties that still exist regarding immunity against the novel coronavirus.”
I’d like to tell you that the Ethics Council came to that determination after realizing that such a passport would simply be unethical. Sadly, that’s not the case.
The council offered two primary concerns as the bases of their ruling:
- The council warned “against using proven immunity to force people into circumstances that pose a risk to their health or life, and state that improper pressure from employers and health insurance providers must be countered.”
- The council advised against the use of immunity passports even if the uncertainties regarding immunity are resolved, because they believe this will lead to a two-tier society.
We’re talking about the “haves” and the “have nots”. Once you let the passport out onto the streets, you’ll have a privliged group and a restricted group, and a whole new class system will emerge.
Looking Ahead At Future Uses
But there’s a much larger and more concerning issue than this, and I’m shocked that the governing parties involved don’t see it. The concept of an immunity passport is akin to having a DNA passport, in which your personal and private information is made public and can never again be made private.
For the present moment, the immunity passport concept only holds the purpose of proving who has tested positive for antibodies. That public disclosure is a violation of an individual’s rights, in my estimation, but it’s our job to look beyond the present moment or intended use of a technology / invention and see what it could turn into.
In this case, the immunity passport, if adopted, could easily evolve into the vaccine passport. As a culture of free thinking people, we shouldn’t be ready to cross that line. And yet, like a frog slowly boiling in water, it wouldn’t be much of a leap to transition from simple antibody tracking to vaccination tracking.