Vaccines, ‘Passports’, and Lying

Regular readers will know that one of the points I keep revisiting about COVID-19 vaccination is that we (or ‘we’) are acting as if ninety percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, when, in fact, we’re not even close to that (in some states, the low percentages of vaccination are horrifying).

I bring this up because, even where I live in D.C., I figure at most 85%* of the people in my building are partially or fully vaccinated: on the one hand, Ward 2 is pretty high based on the incomplete vaccination data D.C. has, on the other, many tenants are under 40, and the under-40 set in D.C. just isn’t getting vaccinated at the same frequency as older groups.

Eight five percent sounds good, but the flip side of that is that fifteen percent are not vaccinated–and aren’t ‘in flight’ to become vaccinated either. Not to humblebrag, but no one in my building can plead economic hardship–and with 24 hours of preparation one can get any vaccine one likes with only a five to fifteen minute walk (there are available slots for the Pfizer vaccine all day tomorrow at the CVS down the block–literally 100 yards away). Yet fifteen percent likely haven’t been vaccinated.

I’m pretty sure I ran into some this weekend. I wear a mask in the building, because it’s not hard to wear one for a minute in an air conditioned building and often I have to wear one at my destination, so why not wear one in the building (besides, it’s not a fucking testicle clamp, it’s a mask. Grow some goddamn fangs here). Anyway, this large party of 20-somethings was completely unmasked, and, based on their body language, I’m pretty sure some of them should have been. I really don’t care about that. It’s a dickhead move, but I’m fully vaccinated and it’s a brief exposure, so I’m not really worried about myself (thankfully).

But it got me thinking (always a dangerous thing!). Do I really want to go out to an indoor restaurant with an elderly relative? I don’t want to be an asymptomatic carrier either. What worries me isn’t so much the lack of vaccination, but the lying, the active and willful disregard for others. It obviously wouldn’t be the first time I ever ate at a restaurant with assholes at the next table over, but the disregard for others safety means they’re more likely to have been exposed–I doubt they’re taking adequate precautions.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way to say that I wonder–I’m definitely uncertain about this–if ruling ‘vaccine passports’, at least voluntary ones, out of hand was a bad idea. I would feel safer–and I would feel far less concerned about some friends and family–if I had some guarantee, even an imperfect one (i.e., there will be cheaters), that people were vaccinated (and if not, then they have to act appropriately). I realize there are a ton of privacy issues (and questions about who would administer and verify this, etc.), but I would appreciate the safety a very strict policy provides, especially in certain contexts (and indoor dining is one of those contexts).

Again, it’s the active malevolence and willful lying that I am supposed to work around, that for which I pay a penalty which really bugs me. Some people need to be forcibly shoved off their bullshit. Hard.

I realize there are serious, perhaps insurmountable, implementation and privacy issues–vaccine verification is probably a bad idea. But we don’t live in a country where most people are vaccinated against COVID-19, even if we want to pretend otherwise. And, at some point, The Discourse will have to get serious about the ethics (or lack thereof) of bad behavior during a time of COVID (ranging from refusal to wear masks to not getting vaccinated). Yes, there are serious structural issues, but too many people just aren’t willing to do the bare ethical minimum–and you don’t have to be a full-bore social conservative to understand that we do require some individual responsibility for all this to work.

*In D.C., as of Monday, 69.7% of those eighteen and older have been partially or fully vaccinated. Like I wrote, 85% is a fairly optimistic guess.

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4 Responses to Vaccines, ‘Passports’, and Lying

  1. James says:

    Yes. This truly started to drive me crazy as a gov’t epidemiologist early on when people were actively lying to contact tracers, hindering outbreak investigations, allowing chains of transmission to continue, putting many more people at risk, and likely directly causing people to get sick. Lying about vaccine status is just another step down this road.

  2. i have considered the possibility that we may end up with a two-tier system across the world where eventually the unvaccinated will find themselves closed out of jobs, various performances and other events, and some social circles, including mine. Already I have switched hairdressers because I know my regular one – who was amazing with hair – is an anti-vaxxer. As the longer-term issues that surround even mild cases of COVID come to light, the relaxed response to it may change, along with the tolerance towards those who choose not to get the vaccine. This makes it even more unfortunate that the previous administration chose to make a medical crisis into a political one simply because they weren’t capable of handling the situation.

  3. John Kane says:

    You need a licence to drive a car. How is a covid vaccination passport\ort that more intrusive?

  4. Bern says:

    I’m resigned to the fact that People Gonna Do What People Gonna Do® and that passports and the like will fail on that count alone. So I do not think that we’ll ever get there until we’ve a health care system similar (at least in this way) to Canada’s, wherein your universal health care card links digitally to all your records such that any authorized* individual can scan it and see if you are vaxxed. Altho come to think of it, if some inhumane people still cling to the idea that universal health care is unAmerican, maybe that sort of data access might be part of their resistance (and if it isn’t yet, just wait – there’s time)…

    *Who decides? And who enforces? Imagine, for instance, a restaurant employee who thinks, for 1st amendment reasons, that just such a vax-inquiry process is too intrusive and refuses to check prospective diners. Does her boss get to fire her? Constitutional law? Labor law? Is it a federal case? And if the diner refuses? No shoes no shirt no vax passport no service?

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