Thomas D. Elias

The biggest argument against the idea of requiring vaccination passports soon to enter restaurants, airplanes, movie theaters, ballparks and other venues is that it would create two classes of Americans — those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

That is correct. Once cost-free Coronavirus vaccinations have been available to all Americans over age 16 for several months, there will indeed be two classes in this country: Those who took advantage of the chance to free themselves from the tyranny of COVID-19 and those who declined that offer, endorsed by President Joe Biden, ex-President Donald Trump and every sane politician in between.

And yet… there’s Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who provided easy access to vaccinations early on to the wealthiest parts of his state while making it far more difficult for those in poorer and more vulnerable populations. Sometimes within the same counties.

DeSantis, who hopes to run for president in 2024 if something — anything — prevents Trump from trying again, issued an executive order the other day barring Florida businesses from requiring documentation of Coronavirus vaccination before admitting or serving any patrons.

Because his state required no anti-COVID tactics of anyone at the time — no masking, no social distancing, nothing at all — this was an invitation for the unvaccinated to mingle closely among themselves and with those who have some protection. It’s no wonder COVID cases are up considerably in Florida since the DeSantis order.

Yes, there is at least one other potential problem with the notion of a vaccination passport. Almost everyone who has been jabbed at least once received a wallet-sized card designed by the federal Centers for Disease Control, with the date and type of vaccine administered spelled out. The card also has blanks for information on follow-up shots and future boosters, if they should materialize.

Forensic experts say it’s easy to forge copies of this and to write in fake information. One response to this problem would be digitally-stored information that could be carried on smartphones. But electronic confirmation of vaccinations has so far gone out routinely only to those who received shots at mass vaccination centers run by some counties. That leaves millions of the vaccinated out, meaning that the CDC cards right now are the best documentation available, even if those can be falsified.

And yet…the CDC has said frequently and authoritatively that the vaccinated can safely mingle together maskless. Its experts also say the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines assure those who get them that even if they are among the small minority who nevertheless contract COVID, they won’t get a serious case. Once vaccinated, that means, death is no longer a threat from this virus. So there is no need for any more fear among the vaccinated than the general population felt in pre-pandemic days.

In turn, that means vaccination really has created two classes of Americans: Those who take advantage of an opportunity to win back freedoms they lost for more than a year of COVID restrictions and those who believe old wives’ tales about vaccines causing autism or even that they make recipients into Bill Gates clones, plus a lot of other claptrap.

It’s hard to understand, what with Trump and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell both endorsing vaccinations, why half of all Republicans consistently tell pollsters they intend not to get vaccinated. It’s a free country, so of course that’s their choice. But it should also be the choice of businesses and others not to serve or admit folks who make that decision, since they can endanger people who can’t get the shots for legitimate medical reasons.

Then there’s the notion that an electronic vaccination passport would infringe on privacy. It would, but only so far as it would contain information about whether a person was vaccinated, when and where. No one has proposed that any such document, physical or digital, contain any more information. How is anyone damaged by that information being known, any more than they suffer when ordinary identification contains age, residence and citizenship information?

So let’s get on with vaccination passports as soon as possible, so most of us can get on with everything else with a minimum of fear.

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