Many Australians affirm mandatory vaccination without considering the implications. But no matter how you look at it, vaccine passports are an ethical disaster.
A year ago, mandatory vaccines were almost unimaginable, the stuff of science fiction. Now vaccine passports are being presented to us as the best—if not the only—way out of Australia’s covid crisis.
Recent data indicates that up to 80 per cent of Australian adults are not opposed to being vaccinated. This raises the question as to why vaccine mandates are even necessary.
Despite this, a growing number of Australia’s industries, postcodes and even states are making it impossible for people to go about daily life without proof of vaccination. It appears increasingly likely that a digital vaccine certificate will be required in many parts of Australia for entry into pubs, restaurants, cafes, businesses, public buildings and even places of worship.
From a policy standpoint, vaccine passports may make sense. But they are also profoundly unethical. And this is not an abstract argument. Vaccine mandates are causing significant hardship and distress for ordinary Australians who have already suffered under debilitating lockdowns. And they are a source of great angst for those not yet affected but fearful of what the future holds.
Consider five reasons why vaccine passports are an ethical disaster.
1. Vaccine passports are an unprecedented threat to liberty
Those defending compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations often cite ‘no jab, no play’ policies already enforced in Australia. But nothing in our nation’s history comes close to what is presently being rolled out.
Australians have always been free to work, shop, travel, socialise and gather for worship without medical discrimination. Vaccine passports will force Australians to choose between these birthrights and their medical autonomy. To give the State this level of power over an individual’s body represents a loss of personal liberty unheard of in modern times.
Western democracies like Australia have always prized and protected human freedoms. In defining ‘Australian values’, the Department of Home Affairs website puts “respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual” at the top of its list.
Australia’s emphasis on human rights and liberties emerged out of Christian theology which says that a person’s conscience is sacred and must not be infringed or usurped by State power. Indeed, the worst abuses of the last century were only made possible when governments were allowed to trespass this boundary.
For the common good and future generations, we must not allow the individual’s conscience and bodily integrity to be violated.
2. Vaccine passports replace informed consent with coercion
Informed consent is a bedrock principle of modern medicine. The Australian Immunisation Handbook explicitly states that vaccines “must be given voluntarily in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation”.
Grave human rights abuses led to the drafting of important international agreements on this matter. Free consent is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is also articulated in Article 6 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights:
Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information.
To make vaccines mandatory—to hold a person’s civil liberties at ransom in exchange for their being vaccinated—is to erase informed consent and replace it with naked coercion.
3. Vaccine passports assume no reasonable grounds for declining vaccination
A sweeping assumption is made by governments and businesses that mandate vaccinations—namely, that there are no reasonable grounds for someone to decide against being vaccinated. In fact, there are many good reasons.
The first and most obvious is someone’s medical history. The TGA tells us that the various Covid-19 vaccines come with risks. For someone who suffers from underlying conditions or has in the past, the risk of taking the vaccine may outweigh the benefits it gives them. They should be allowed to make this decision in consultation with their doctor: this is a right we have always preserved and should continue to.
There are many other reasons someone might decline vaccination. A person’s religious beliefs or deeply-felt personal convictions might prevent them from giving consent. Another person might weigh the risks and benefits of the vaccine based on their young age and good health and decide that the procedure is unnecessary.
An 18-year-old boy, for instance, has just a 0.003 per cent chance of dying from Covid-19. He is more likely to die from electrocution, sunstroke or a sharp object than he is to die of the virus. Given that nine Australians have died as a direct result of taking a Covid-19 vaccine and many more have suffered a vaccine injury, this particular young man might prefer to take his chance with the virus—a choice that should be left up to him.
Of course, there are also those who have previously been infected who now carry virus antibodies. Why should they be forced to take the vaccine when they already have substantial immunity?
4. Vaccine passports create unreasonable discrimination
The covid pandemic has resulted in the most significant wealth exchange in history, further exacerbating the gap between rich and poor. In addition, the social fabric in nations like Australia has been worn thin by the pain and division caused by covid restrictions.
Vaccine passports will only further tear at that social fabric. To exclude ten or twenty per cent of the population from routine daily activities will create a two-tiered society, a form of medical apartheid. The harm will be felt most by those already marginalised.
This kind of discrimination may not even be legal. According to Anti-Discrimination NSW, for example, ‘infectious diseases discrimination’ is against the law. This includes unfair treatment on the assumption that someone has or may acquire an infectious disease.
Legal frameworks like this were put in place to stop people from being excluded from society despite any marginal health risk they pose to the public. We should not abandon our principled commitment to inclusion and social harmony now.
5. Vaccine passports open the door to untold medical control
My digital vaccine certificate might glow green today. But what about when it turns orange tomorrow, and I have to book in my booster shot to maintain my access to society? What about when I have to get another one in six months? And a flu shot. And routine blood tests. Every year on repeat.
My body and my medical treatment regime is now tied to the State, who will be increasingly tempted to provide my biomedical data to third parties—all for public health and safety, of course.
This is not some far-fetched dystopian dream. It is the most likely long-term scenario if we roll out mandatory vaccines today. Vaccine passports place us on the precipice: once we jump, we won’t go back. They are the thin edge of the wedge to significant medical control, and it is naive to think otherwise.
Thomas Jefferson wisely warned that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” Or, as Australian historian Stephen Chavura frames it in our context:
When Covid hit in early 2020, did you think 18 months later we’d have riots in the streets, police shooting rubber bullets at civilians, the military prowling around, church leaders debating whether or not to let unvaccinated people worship in churches, truckies planning to shut the country down, and vaccine passports to enter into restaurants, see friends and family, travel, and even to continue in your job? Did you think you’d no longer be able to enter into any private or public establishment without registering your whereabouts to the State?
Civil liberties are eroded piecemeal, never all at once. And often, it is by those who wish us well. As Chavura qualifies, “This is not being driven by monsters. It’s being driven by saints. People who know how to fix our world now have the science, technology, and power to do it.”
Even if we grant that our governments have good intentions, vaccine passports are an ethical disaster. We must resist them at all costs, and we now have a very narrow window of time in which to do so.
This article was first published at the Daily Declaration.
12 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why Vaccine Passports are an Ethical Disaster”
Thank you Kurt, for crystallizing the argument and implications. Excellent article. I pray it gets out to the masses on some mainstream platforms. A needed wake up.
I totally disagree re vaccines passports. In my opinion, vaccines passport ought to be mandatory, the only exemption should be if a person “suffers from an underlying condition or has in the past, the risk of taking the vaccine may outweigh the benefits it give them”. Refusing to be vaccinated for “any other reasons” smacks of (unchristian) selfishness and shows a lack of consideration by infecting other people especially the vulnerable. The only way we can come out of this mess is by getting the whole population vaccinated and we’re never going to succeed if we allow selfish, inconsiderate people walking around spreading the infection. .
Vaccinated spread the virus as well.
Vaccinated can also contract the virus.
I agree keep up the good work
Excellent article from a far-sighted thinker. Thank you very much, Kurt. Sadly, division begins when the vaccinated makes a moral judgement on the unvaccinated without looking into the complexity of the issues such as shocking safety records in the US, UK & the EU. Coercing someone else to take part in the biggest human clinical trial in history which could potentially harm them is immoral and unethical. Vaccine passports, encouraging dobbing on your neighbour, suppression of open debate, class struggle … that’s China, where my parents fled from.
1/ Was Jesus all about the rights of individuals or was he all about laying down our lives for our friends? I always thought that there was no greater thing than love for God and love for your neighbour, not liberty, not religious beliefs or deeply felt personal convictions That is, if I can fairly confidently have a vaccine to help protect my vulnerable workmates who are unable to take a vaccine due to their underlying health conditions (even though they want it) would I not do that for them?
2/ I believe it’s true that the percentage of people who die or are made severely sick in a Covid infected population is higher than those who have severe reactions or die from the vaccines
3/ We have seen the scenarios stated by Stephen Chavura happen simply because of the consequences and confusion of a global pandemic not previously experienced in this generation They are sad but inevitable byproducts of such an event
4/ I may feel that the affront to my freedom and personal choice imposed by Vaccine Passports is an unquestionable undermining of my civil liberties But in the process of fighting for freedom and choice am I not compromising a safe and healthy environment for a whole generation of children under 12 and other health compromised and vulnerable groups of the wider population who currently cannot be vaccinated at all?
Hi Sonya, I had so many responses to this article that I thought it best to compile them and respond in prose rather than in a comments thread. Just scroll down to the relevant questions: https://blog.canberradeclaration.org.au/2021/09/07/against-vaccine-passports/
I mostly agree with your articles Kurt, but not this one
Firstly why all the fear about getting vaccinated. That is underlying this fear of Covid passports. Have no fear, get the jab, and do our part to protect our families, our communities and our nation.
Secondly, I see so many people who are rebellious and saying this robs their freedoms so they will oppose the laws of our land. Is it any different to traffic lights or wearing seat belts or so many other things in life. Obey the laws and live in the freedom of Christ.
We have some precedence with flu vaccines already required for accessing nursing homes. You may not agree but the nursing homes are looking to protect their residents. I see that as their right and responsibility.
Likewise if a business wants to protect its operation, it’s staff and its clients, isn’t that their right and privilege to do so, by insisting that staff and clients are vaccinated.
As far as churches are concerned, I think we should have a more open door policy but there is still a responsibility to protect the people who attend. But maybe the church can weigh up the risks sbd consequences if not doing so. It may become a hot spot and so have to have doors closed and go online again but maybe that’s a risk individual churches can take to be more open to all, unlike businesses that can loose their livelihood if they become a hot spot.
Maybe an approved exemption basis could be established, not on a state by state basis but as a nation. That needs further consideration on why and how and how the risks are mitigated and shared as a community.
Not sure that I have addressed all your comments or that the issue is all black and white but we need to be open to discussing this matter from both sides of the debate.
Lastly, I think we can act out if fear that this is thin end of wedge and governments will push fir more controls . This may be the case but again, let us not act out of fear and rule out actions on that basis. Rather out in protections and boundaries to protect against that.
Lastly, why have lockdowns even now. If people are vaccinated as in staff a s clients of businesses, then surely those businesses could operate freely. If people choose not to get vaccinated then they can deal with the consequences of their own actions and be precluded from these businesses whether hairdressers or cafes. It’s their choice. As it is the businesses to oreclude them because they refuse to get jabbed.
Hi Geoff, I had so many responses to this article that I thought it best to compile them and respond in prose rather than in a comments thread. Just scroll down to the relevant questions: https://blog.canberradeclaration.org.au/2021/09/07/against-vaccine-passports/
I mostly appreciate your view points but I disagree with this article. You are talking as though this is a new thing. It’s not. There are so many examples of this already existing in society. We continuously abide by social contracts which allow us to participate in society. For years you have had to provide proof of vaccination to enter and return from certain countries. This is not removing your freedoms, but is a consequence of your choices. If you choose to travel to countries with known infectious diseases that Australia does not have, you must do what you can to protect vulnerable citizens upon return. This is not an ‘unprecedented threat to liberty.’
If you want your child to attend public daycare, you must provide proof of vaccination. Again, this is a calculated measure to protect vulnerable people.
If you want to enter an RSL you must be wearing shoes, a collared shirt and provide evidence of identity. It is their right as a business to provide conditions of entry.
I do believe that we are wading into a murky area surrounding medical control, but that was well and truly introduced and implemented before Covid. You said “My body and my medical treatment regime is now tied to the State, who will be increasingly tempted to provide my biomedical data to third parties—all for public health and safety, of course.”
This has been the case for a long time.The government already has your medical info and has been able to provide this information to third parties for years. If you didn’t opt out of ‘My Health’ Records when it was an option then not just the government but many people have access to this information. You vaccination record is one very small element of this.
Yes, if you choose to not take the vaccine you will not be able to participate in many parts of society, but you have the freedom to make that choice, just as is the case in the examples I have already provided. We make so many choices every day that allow us to either participate or exclude ourselves from activities.
Hi Matilda, I had so many responses to this article that I thought it best to compile them and respond in prose rather than in a comments thread. Just scroll down to the relevant questions: https://blog.canberradeclaration.org.au/2021/09/07/against-vaccine-passports/
We must convince our politicians to look at the issue from the other direction.
That is, vaccination protects the vaccinated from the serious adverse effects of infection, including death.
Once persons vaccinated reach 70 and 80 percent, there is no need to know anyone’s vaccination status because the disease will falter due to vaccination and herd immunity reducing the pool of subjects to infect.
We vaccinated will not tolerate the 20% unvaccinated being used an excuse to curtail our rights and freedoms.
The health system will not be overwhelmed and fewer people will become seriously ill and die.
The virus will be reduced to a flu like virus in its effects.