EU Vaccine Passport: The Promise and Perils of COVID-Free ‚Travel Pass‘

Written by | Friday, March 5th, 2021
@Eubulletin

The European Commission is set to unveil a legislative proposal on a “digital green pass” to allow vaccinated people to travel more freely for the summer, though some EU member states warn the pass risks discrimination against people unable or unwilling to get the jab. The European Union’s executive said Monday (1 March) it will propose rules for a passport to allow those who have been vaccinated or recently tested for COVID-19 to travel for work or tourism throughout the bloc. Legislation will be presented later in March for the digital pass, which EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen called a “green pass,” that hopefully could help EU member nations rebuild their tourism industries. Following last week’s EU summit, where the idea was first discussed, Von der Leyen said the vaccine certificate could be launched in three months’ time, and that the pass would uphold data protection standards.
“Green pass” is the term used in Israel for the digital or paper document issued to allow its holders to prove they have been inoculated and can therefore enter entertainment, sporting and dining venues. This „green pass“ issue is, however, hotly debated among EU member nations, some of which are arguing it may be premature to issue such “passports” as it’s unclear how much protection vaccines give against transmission. Others have argued about the fairness of allowing only those who have had access to vaccines to travel while many others must still live under restrictions. However, the EU executive said last week it would seek to avoid discrimination against citizens who have not received a vaccine. While the certificate, dubbed a „Digital Green Pass“, may sound good on paper, there are myriad concerns about the Commission’s plans for a vaccine passport. It does not come as a surprise that it was the Southern European countries like Greece and Cyprus, whose economies rely heavily on the tourism sector, who have been behind the push for such a certificate as they attempt to revive their battered tourism industries.
It may take at least three months to set up a viable system, but it will be only then when the real problems start. Firstly, with only 6% of the EU population having so far been vaccinated, “before vaccine certificates or passports are introduced, a large amount of the population would need to be vaccinated and a larger group of individuals would need to have access,” says Melinda Mills from the University of Oxford. Secondly, aside from technical challenges, there are questions over privacy and ethical issues. “A central ethical concern is to first determine who you would exclude if certificates were introduced. There are certain people who are unable to have vaccines for medical reasons such as those with allergies or pregnant women,“ Mills warns. „In some countries, certain ethnic minorities are more vaccine hesitant, which would mean that this group could be inadvertently excluded.”

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