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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: covid vaccine passport

Vaccine Passports: A Culture War We Should Cancel Immediately

"We are not supporting doing any vaccine passports in the state of Florida," declared Gov. Ron DeSantis. "It's completely unacceptable," he said, for either government or the private sector to require showing proof of vaccination against COVID-19 "to just simply participate in normal society."

Actually, Florida requires proof of vaccination for any child attending school — and the list of mandatory immunizations, available on the state website, is not short. (The Florida Certification of Immunization, DH Form 680, documents a child's vaccination history.)

But why pass up an opportunity to play culture war when you might run for president as the Republican candidate in 2024? After all, President Biden's administration is working with businesses to come up with a standard vaccine certification document, which makes it extra easy to mischaracterize what this is all about, especially on the fevered right. I will spare you the comparisons to Nazi Germany already being aired on Fox News.

The idea of a document certifying that holders have been vaccinated against the coronavirus originated in the private sector. Airlines, restaurants and other businesses hurt by the loss of virus-fearing customers see the document as a way of reassuring the public that the person in the next seat very likely won't pass on a dreaded illness.

The European Union plans a Green Digital Certificate that would let those who've been vaccinated or recently tested negative for the virus travel anywhere in the region. Israel has created the Green Pass, which can be carried on a smartphone, confirming that someone has been fully vaccinated. It's required for indoor dining, going to a gym or attending the theater.

As for here, the Biden administration says there will be no federal database showing who has gotten the shots. And no one will be forced to get vaccinated. The police state has not arrived.

But let's address some of the frequently voiced objections to some kind of vaccine certification.

— Suppose you left yours at home: Well, suppose you get pulled over for speeding and you've left your driver's license at home. Suppose you try to enter any country — or fly back to this one from abroad — without a passport. It's best that you remember to carry these documents.

— Businesses should not be able to force employees to show proof of vaccination: Why not if they can already insist that employees wear face masks and dress appropriately for the job?

— What about variants that a vaccine might not stop?: In other words, suppose you're one of the tiny percentage of people who get the virus despite being immunized. I know I'd rather take a very small chance of getting the virus than the far bigger chance it would be if the unvaccinated were allowed to crowd me at a bar.

— Disadvantaged communities would be most adversely affected by a mandate: Disadvantaged communities are most adversely affected by the virus. The remedy is to ensure good access to the vaccines everywhere.

The beautiful day may come when America has achieved herd immunity to COVID and the need for this kind of documentation is lessened. Bear in mind, though, that travelers to parts of Africa still must show a card indicating they've been vaccinated against yellow fever. Meanwhile, Italy, India, and other countries are still dealing with high rates of infection.

Finally, the question arises of whether a bar, stadium, or convention center should have the right to deny service to the unvaccinated. Of course they should. If restaurants can post a sign reading, "No shirt. No Shoes. No Service," there's no reason why they can't say, "No Shots. No Service."

Just like the public schools in Florida — and most everywhere else.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Compulsory Vaccination Is American As Apple Pie — And Old As The Revolution

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

With a large portion of the country getting vaccinated, we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. To protect public health, certain activities will obviously require people to be vaccinated, a kind of policy that has existed in some form or another since the American Revolution. Despite the longstanding established practice, the idea of a "vaccine passport" has people making bizarre comparisons to the Holocaust and tyrannical governments. It is common practice for people to provide their vaccination records in order to go to school, have certain jobs and travel to certain countries. The concept of a "vaccine passport" is just to streamline this process and make it easier for people to show proof of their COVID-19 vaccination. If one doesn't want to get vaccinated, they might just have to forgo participating in certain activities.

Compulsory vaccination laws are justified legally based on the state's compelling interest in protecting the health and welfare of the population. It is common to restrain a little individual liberty in order to protect the safety of the larger society. Consider the Oliver Wendell Holmes quote, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." Our liberty must be restrained if said liberty has the likelihood of putting others at risk. This applies to gun laws, traffic laws, or bringing shampoo bottles on airplanes. If a person doesn't want to get vaccinated, that is their choice. But they likely forfeit traveling, attending schools, or having certain jobs.

Compulsory vaccination policies in this country began during the American Revolution. Smallpox was a huge threat to the Continental Army and word of the disease was actually halting enlistments. In order to protect soldiers and the war effort, General Washington ordered all new recruits receive the "variolation" for smallpox in 1776. The policy was successful at eradicating smallpox among soldiers, which helped the Continental Army defeat the British invasion at Saratoga.

The first law that required the general population get vaccinated was passed in Massachusetts in 1809. The state empowered local boards of health for towns to require free vaccinations of people over 21 if the boards felt it was necessary. If a person refused, they had to pay a $5 fine (about $100 in today's money). States across the country followed with their own compulsory smallpox vaccination laws though the specifics varied widely. Some only required compulsory vaccinations in the midst of an epidemic. Some only required vaccinations for children attending schools.

New York City exercised particularly broad power in allowing health officials to enforce vaccinations or quarantines. As a busy international harbor, the city felt particularly threatened by incoming diseases. As a result, immigrants and ships were often required to quarantine. Unfortunately, these policies often took on a distinctly anti-immigrant and nativist turn. Public health officials often blamed poor immigrants for spreading diseases rather than engaging in education to encourage vaccine compliance.

Common policy in the late 19th century was to place a yellow flag in front of an infected building and not allow anyone in or out. However, there weren't clear guidelines on forcing a person to comply with a vaccination if they didn't want to. As a result, in 1894, Brooklyn's top health official Z. Taylor Emery would often enforce quarantines, to the point of not allowing provisions to be delivered, on those who refused being vaccinated. Emery's arbitrary and coercive policies resulted in backlash but the appeals court supported Emery's rationale of protecting the public.

In 1905, the question of compulsory vaccination laws made it to the United States Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts. At the time, Massachusetts was one of 11 states that had compulsory vaccination laws. Jacobson was a Swedish immigrant who had a bad experience with a childhood vaccination. He refused the smallpox vaccination as an adult in Massachusetts. Jacobson was prosecuted and fined for refusing. He challenged the fine, claiming it was an invasion of his liberty. In a 7-2 decision the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory vaccination laws are not arbitrary or oppressive, as long as they don't "go so far beyond what was reasonably required for the safety of the public." Jacobson was affirmed in 1922 in Zucht v. King to support a school district refusing admittance to a student who was not vaccinated. That ruling was used as precedent in 2020 concerning cases resulting from COVID-19 policies.

There is a complicated history in the United States for compulsory healthcare with vulnerable communities. Coercive policies to force vaccinations might have produced results, but in 2021, we know better ways to encourage vaccination and public safety.

Education and restricting participation in certain activities, jobs, and schools will likely be the vaccine policies going forward. We don't yet know exactly what activities will require proof of vaccinations, but such policies are not anything new. A "vaccine passport" on your phone will only serve to make the existing process of vaccine proof for schools, jobs and travel a little easier. This is a far cry from fascism or tyranny.



Conservatives Betray Their Own Values By Rejecting Vaccine Passports

If there is any fundamental belief that has always united conservatives, it's the central importance of property rights. James Madison wrote: "Government is instituted to protect property of every sort ... (T)hat alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own." Said economist Milton Friedman, "Nothing is so important for freedom as recognizing in the law each individual's natural right to property."

That idea still has some appeal on the right. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has gone so far as to criticize the Fair Housing Act, which barred racial discrimination in the sale and rental of homes, for infringing on the liberty of owners. "Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered," he wrote in 2002. "As a consequence, some associations will discriminate." He was fine with that.

But Republicans have gotten fickle about the rights of property owners. This shift is apparent in their rejection of "vaccine passports," which would allow businesses to deny service to people who have not been inoculated against COVID-19.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis argued, "It'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." Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) said, "Vaccine credentials would be a complete government overstep" and would risk "substantially limiting normal day-to-day essential activities."

The Biden administration has said it has no interest in making such verification mandatory for any purpose. "We're not going to have any federally mandated, universal vaccine credential, and there will not be a federal database," said White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients. All it is doing is looking for ways to facilitate private-sector initiatives while protecting privacy and preventing fraud.

Some of the objections grow out of the fever-swamp paranoia we have come to expect from people who think COVID-19 was unleashed by Bill Gates to bring about a world government. But some of it comes from people who think anything that conflicts with their selfish preferences is a violation of their rights.

Americans have never had a problem with businesses enforcing a dress code for employees or restaurants requiring patrons to wear shoes and shirts. Conservatives champion the right of bakers to refuse to provide cakes for same-sex weddings. They think pharmacies should not have to provide emergency contraceptives.

They don't mind when corporations drug-test job applicants. They registered no outrage when a Michigan ammunition shop said it would refuse to sell to Biden voters.

All these policies rest on the accepted notion that private companies are allowed to set their own terms for doing business and customers who object are free to go elsewhere. (The exceptions are rare, such as forbidding discrimination against historically oppressed groups.)

But the pandemic prompted many Republicans to suddenly abandon their respect for the property rights of private companies. Over the past year, innumerable videos have surfaced of Trump loyalists who refused to wear masks screaming at retail employees while claiming their rights were being violated.

Now, in the same vein, conservatives who refuse to get vaccinated insist that businesses are not allowed to keep them out. Gun-toting Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tweeted, "Vaccine Passports are unconstitutional. Period."

She's welcome to take that up with the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly described "the right to exclude others" as "one of the most essential sticks in the bundle of rights that are commonly characterized as property." A business choosing to make proof of vaccination a condition for employees or customers would be constitutionally protected.

Just last month, the court heard a lawsuit filed by the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation aimed at striking down a California regulation granting union organizers limited access to farms to speak with workers. The foundation says, "You wouldn't be forced to let a solicitor in your home — why on earth should you be forced to let a private-sector union enter your property?"

Good point. So why, if you own a business, should you be forced to admit someone who declines to verify that he or she has been immunized against a highly contagious and potentially lethal virus?

Conservatives used to place supreme value on all the rights that go with property ownership. But today, one of the most important ones finds itself being turned away at the door.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com