Vaccine passports rekindle fears over data privacy and government tracking

An illustration of a United States Passport with a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card in San Diego, California, Thursday, March 11, 2021. Spain, Georgia, Greece, and Denmark will allow international travelers who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. Photo by Rishi Deka/Sipa USA

Nearly 30% of the American population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Now airlines, hotels, cruise ships, and foreign countries are signaling they might demand proof you’ve gotten your shots. Enter the vaccine passport. 

“We can think about it as just the certified document attesting to the fact that someone has completed their necessary vaccinations,” says Richard M. Carpiano, professor of public policy and sociology at UC Riverside. 

Carpiano says the idea of a vaccine passport raises privacy concerns, including fears of government monitoring and how third parties might use medical information.

“We live in an age of data breaches and so certainly concerns about that. Concern about who also might be the possessors of that information. We've already seen during COVID pushback against things like contact tracing apps and worries about the government having information about us and our activities.”

But he points out that the need for vaccine documentation isn’t new.

“Children need it to attend elementary, high school, [and] college. Immigrants to America have to be vaccinated and proof of that before they can get a green card. We already have existing types of vaccine passports.” 

Credits

Guest:

  • Richard M. Carpiano - professor of public policy and sociology at UC Riverside; co-editor of the “Journal of Health and Social Behavior”