On ‘vaccine passports’

See update for April 3, 2021, at end of post.


Note: I am aware of concerns that ‘vaccine passports’ may be unfair to those who are unfairly disadvantaged in accessing vaccines. This post does not address those concerns, which are diminishing within the U.S.,[1] nor the problem of medical apartheid and vaccination resistance,[2] but rather the conservative objection to such ‘passports.’

According to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, “[i]t’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society.”[3]

It’s worth tracing the logic here. If you shouldn’t have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, that means that neither the public nor the private sectors have a legitimate interest in that vaccination, which necessarily means that your vaccination status does not affect other people’s well-being, at least to a degree that justifies an infringement of rights that DeSantis apparently holds dear. This, for a disease that, as of this morning (March 31, 2021), has killed 550,500 people in the United States,[4] including 33,337 people in DeSantis’ state,[5] and a disease for which variants are appearing that threaten even those who have received the vaccine.[6]

Which is to say that for DeSantis, individual “freedom”[7] is more important than other people’s lives. This according to a man who asserts that “[t]he right to life is the most foundational of our God-given rights.”[8]

Now, I understand that for abortion opponents, such as DeSantis, the right to life is not for everyone, but really only for those yet to be born, and probably more so for white lives than Black lives.[9] But for the rest of us, DeSantis’ anti-choice stance should undermine entirely his stance on vaccine passports.


Update, April 3, 2021: I have updated the note at the beginning of this post to further the clarify what I am and am not responding to here, and enhanced the argument on whether vaccine hesitancy in fact threatens other people by pointing to the problem of variants.[10]

  1. [1]Philip Bump, “Vaccine skepticism and disregard for containment efforts go hand in hand,” Washington Post, April 2, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/04/02/vaccine-skepticism-disregard-containment-efforts-go-hand-in-hand/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Medical apartheid and COVID-19 vaccinations,” Not Housebroken, March 30, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/03/26/medical-apartheid-and-covid-19-vaccinations/
  3. [3]Laurel Wamsley, “Florida Gov. DeSantis Rejects Vaccine Passports As ‘Completely Unacceptable,’” National Public Radio, March 30, 2021, https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/03/30/982837517/florida-gov-desantis-rejects-vaccine-passports-as-completely-unacceptable
  4. [4]New York Times, “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count,” March 31, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html
  5. [5]New York Times, “Florida Coronavirus Map and Case Count,” March 31, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/florida-coronavirus-cases.html
  6. [6]Josie Ensor, “New coronavirus mutation could be evolving to get around mask-wearing and hand-washing,” Telegraph, September 24, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/24/new-coronavirus-mutation-could-evolving-get-around-mask-wearing/; Natalie Grover, “What do we know about the fast-spreading Covid variant in UK?” Guardian, December 20, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/20/fast-spreading-covid-variant-in-england-uk; Melissa Healy, “California’s coronavirus strain looks increasingly dangerous: ‘The devil is already here,’” Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2021-02-23/california-homegrown-coronavirus-strain-looks-increasingly-transmissible-and-dangerous; Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach, “Researchers hypothesize that a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus is spreading, but other experts remain skeptical,” Washington Post, May 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/researchers-hypothesize-that-a-highly-contagious-strain-of-the-coronavirus-is-spreading-but-other-experts-remain-skeptical/2020/05/05/db90d790-8ee7-11ea-9e23-6914ee410a5f_story.html; Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach, “This coronavirus mutation has taken over the world. Scientists are trying to understand why,” Washington Post, June 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2020/06/29/coronavirus-mutation-science/; Christopher Rowland, Emily Rauhala, and Miriam Berger, “Drug companies defend vaccine monopolies in face of global outcry,” Washington Post, March 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/03/20/covid-vaccine-global-shortages/; Zeynep Tufekci, “The Fourth Surge Is Upon Us. This Time, It’s Different,” Atlantic, March 30, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/03/fourth-surge-variant-vaccine/618463/; Ralph Vartabedian, “Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious,” Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-05/mutant-coronavirus-has-emerged-more-contagious-than-original
  7. [7]The conservative understanding of ‘freedom’ is distorting. See David Benfell, “On ‘freedom,’” Not Housebroken, March 14, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/09/13/on-freedom/
  8. [8]Ron DeSantis, “The right to life is the most foundational of our God-given rights. I am a proud cosponsor of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which protects victims and helps to foster a culture of life,” Twitter, January 19, 2018, https://twitter.com/GovRonDeSantis/status/954416825433026560
  9. [9]David Benfell, “The connection between ‘original sin,’ misogyny, and white supremacism,” Not Housebroken, November 25, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/25/the-connection-between-original-sin-misogyny-and-white-supremacism/
  10. [10]Josie Ensor, “New coronavirus mutation could be evolving to get around mask-wearing and hand-washing,” Telegraph, September 24, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/09/24/new-coronavirus-mutation-could-evolving-get-around-mask-wearing/; Natalie Grover, “What do we know about the fast-spreading Covid variant in UK?” Guardian, December 20, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/20/fast-spreading-covid-variant-in-england-uk; Melissa Healy, “California’s coronavirus strain looks increasingly dangerous: ‘The devil is already here,’” Los Angeles Times, February 23, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2021-02-23/california-homegrown-coronavirus-strain-looks-increasingly-transmissible-and-dangerous; Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach, “Researchers hypothesize that a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus is spreading, but other experts remain skeptical,” Washington Post, May 5, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/researchers-hypothesize-that-a-highly-contagious-strain-of-the-coronavirus-is-spreading-but-other-experts-remain-skeptical/2020/05/05/db90d790-8ee7-11ea-9e23-6914ee410a5f_story.html; Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach, “This coronavirus mutation has taken over the world. Scientists are trying to understand why,” Washington Post, June 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2020/06/29/coronavirus-mutation-science/; Christopher Rowland, Emily Rauhala, and Miriam Berger, “Drug companies defend vaccine monopolies in face of global outcry,” Washington Post, March 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/03/20/covid-vaccine-global-shortages/; Ralph Vartabedian, “Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that appears to be more contagious,” Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-05-05/mutant-coronavirus-has-emerged-more-contagious-than-original

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