Vaccine Passports

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COVID-19 vaccination vaccine

Vaccine Passports

22 September 2021 Hits:2087

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the following on my Facebook page:

I’d like to gauge how people are feeling about the possible use of Vaccine certificates for entry into certain places and venues as we begin to open up from lockdown restrictions. Select the number below that most accurately expresses how you resonate with the following statement…

“As we move into the next phase of living with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, proof of vaccination is very important to keep people as safe as possible from the COVID-19 illness this virus causes.”

    • Strongly agree
    • Agree
    • Disagree
    • Strongly disagree
    • Unsure
    • Don’t care

You may include ONE sentence of explanation if you feel it’s necessary. But please, no commentary, no arguments, and NO links to videos or articles. The post received almost 400 comments. Most people followed the rules. Some people can’t help themselves. Here are the results (Response numbers in brackets):

    • Strongly agree (122)
    • Agree (54)
    • Disagree (15)
    • Strongly disagree (88)
    • Unsure (14)
    • Don’t care (3)

Worth Noting

Several things stand out from these responses. Firstly, vaccine passports are an extremely divisive issue. The overwhelming majority of people are in favour of some proof of vaccination. Most people with medical training voted number 1.

Also, I don’t assume that everyone who is against proof of vaccination is anti-vax. I acknowledge those of you who are not yet vaccinated or are vaccine-hesitant. Some people are pro-vaccination but have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines. Others have trypanophobia, a fear of needles. I reference anti-vaxxers once in this blog. In that comment I mean people who are completely against all vaccines in every circumstance.

This blog is not about ridiculing anyone. I respect where you’re at right now and affirm your freedom of choice. For Christians, let our unity and love for one another focus on Jesus and not our opinion of the pandemic, politics, or vaccines.

Where I Stand

I resonate most strongly with number 2. As we move into the next phase of the pandemic, living with COVID-19, I believe it will be vital to have some proof of vaccination for entry into any place where a crowd will gather. The thought behind electing “2” rather than “1” is my concern around implementation and a divided community. Governments must not be heavy-handed in the execution of this, and as much personal liberty as possible must be preserved except where it impinges on the right of others to be safe. Business owners, and church leaders, should not be made to be security guards. And any vaccine passport should be implemented for the shortest time necessary.

Ultimately, my concern is for people and especially the most vulnerable in the community. I believe everyone who wants to be vaccinated should have that opportunity BEFORE we fully open up. A medical exemption for those who cannot be vaccinated has already been referred to medical experts to facilitate. I’m also hoping that a negative PCR test, or proof of recovery from COVID-19, will be an option for those who are not yet vaccinated, whatever their reason may be. Privacy of personal information must also be a high priority.

Paul’s words to the Philippian church should ring loud in our hearts, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:3-5). I encourage you to use these verses as your filter and guide.

There’s no doubt that the next few months will be the most challenging of the pandemic. In one sense, it’s easy to shut things down. Opening up, well, that’s much more problematic. Striking a balance between bringing life back to normal, whatever that looks like, and keeping people as safe as possible, is no mean feat. Please be prayerful for our State and Federal government leaders at this time. They all need great wisdom.

Vaccination Passports are Not New

By definition, a vaccine passport is quite literally just an immunisation record — a document that notes whether someone is protected against a particular disease.

In 2007, I was teaching at a pastors’ conference in Uganda. Afterwards, I flew back to Jo’burg. Arriving at the airport, I realised I’d left my vaccine certificate in the desk drawer of my home office. I did my very best to explain this at customs. The person I spoke with was kind, understanding, and insistent. I had three choices:

    • Stay on the wrong side of the airport
    • Fly back to Uganda
    • Have the Yellow Fever jab

Even though I was fully vaccinated, I had no proof. So, I rolled up my sleeve and had another one, after which I was given my vaccine passport and allowed entry to South Africa.

Before 1973, travellers had to carry an International Certificate of Cholera Vaccination. Until May 8, 1980, travellers needed proof of smallpox vaccination. No jab, no travel. One person who commented on my post said, “when I travelled overseas to the [Middle East], 40years ago, we had to carry proof we were vaccinated against cholera, typhoid, smallpox, polio, etc. No one thought their rights were being violated back then.”

From 1 January 2018, Children who have not been immunised due to their parent’s vaccine conscientious objection cannot be enrolled in childcare.

A Little History

An Italian health pass (fede di sanità) for travel during times of plague, 1722

In Bible times, people with leprosy had to show themselves ‘clean’ before re-entering the community and restart everyday living. Until then, they’d shout out “unclean” to warn people nearby to keep their distance.

With the advent of the first vaccine in 1796, it wasn’t long until some proof of vaccination was required. The initial evidence was the scar left on the arm of people who had the smallpox inoculation. During the smallpox epidemic in the United States (1885), the hardest-hit states made vaccination compulsory with “official certificates of vaccination” required for people to “go to work, attend public school, ride trains or even go to the theatre.”

The need for vaccine passports increased with the arrival of air travel because of how much faster local smallpox outbreaks could occur. So, before people could board planes, they had to undergo vaccine certificate checks “with forcible isolation at airports of any passengers considered to have dubious documentation.”

Some Americans resisted these public health measures. The predecessors of today’s anti-vaxxers questioned the vaccine’s effectiveness or falsely claimed that it caused smallpox or other side effects. One writer dramatically claimed in 1923 that “A scar from forced vaccination is a brand, a mark of medical tyranny and despotism.” Some preachers regarded a vaccination scar as the “mark of the beast” referenced in the Bible’s Book of Revelation. It seems little has changed!

What About Freedom?

Much of the current narrative revolves around freedom, and I agree, human free will is an incredible gift from God. But freedom doesn’t mean that we can do as we choose in every instance. Just ask Adam & Eve! There are real-life consequences for the choices we make.

We already accept various requirements in numerous situations. There are compulsory requirements, such as voting or wearing seat belts, and conditional requirements. For example, if you want to go on a mine site, you have to wear a hard hat and a high vis jacket. In other words, if you’re going to do (A), then here’s the minimum you need to do (B). It has nothing to do with personal beliefs. You could say that “Jesus is my protection” and “I’m shielded by Psalm 91.” You can believe anything you want, but you still need to wear a hard hat!

In a global pandemic, the exercise of your freedom NOT to be vaccinated will activate the liberty of others NOT to admit you, NOT to permit you to fly, NOT to allow you to work near others. All of this is because OTHER people have freedom too. Freedom to choose belongs to all, as does the responsibility to face the outcomes of your free choices.

No one is being “compelled” to be vaccinated. It is “optional but conditional.” You can choose not to vaccinate but then face the consequences of how others react to your choice. Participation in certain activities is forfeited for a short period as the community adjusts to living with SARS-CoV-2, just like a visa is denied unless specific requirements are met. It’s called “considerate regulation to minimize risk.”

Living with COVID-19

Society needs to open up as safely as possible. That will include a season, maybe six months, where proof of vaccination is required for entrance into cinemas, swimming pools, museums, spas, indoor restaurant dining, theatres, pubs, clubs, and sporting venues. Tourism and travel need to reopen too. Being stuck in lockdown has taken an enormous toll on these industries, not to mention the impact of restrictions on people’s mental health. We cannot stay locked down forever, but we must open up carefully.

Even if Australia doesn’t introduce vaccine passports or the equivalent, it appears highly likely that Aussies will be impacted as they travel. For example, France bans unvaccinated U.S. tourists. The European country is the latest to tighten restrictions for American travellers. Israel has followed suit. The bottom line? If you want to travel, you’ll need to be vaccinated and be able to prove it.

Medical Apartheid?

Several people mentioned their concern about an ‘us versus them’ society. I find it interesting that it is Christian people saying this. The whole premise of evangelicalism is a separation of ‘us’ and them,’ ‘in’ and ‘out,’ and ‘saved’ and ‘lost.’ John Calvin, in his Institutes divides the human race into “the elect” (chosen) and “the reprobate” (damned).

The Bible speaks of sheep and goats, wheat and weeds, and the book of life and those scratched out. But we feel concerned when it’s us who are excluded! No one likes to be left out.

The term “Medical Apartheid” is highly offensive, especially to people who lived through and were impacted by apartheid in South Africa. The book Medical Apartheid “traces the complex history of medical experimentation on Black Americans in the United States since the middle of the eighteenth century.”  Comparing these atrocities to the public health measures during the current pandemic is highly offensive.

What About Church?

Firstly, if you are part of Bayside Church, Christie and I will communicate privately with you via email. We are still sifting through the detail, but here’s what we know so far:

70% fully vaccinated (26/10): Outdoor gatherings with 50 fully vaccinated people (or 20 of unknown vaccination status).

80% fully vaccinated (5/11): Indoor meetings with 150 fully vaccinated people (or 20 of unknown vaccination status outdoors)

When the Services Victoria app is updated, it will contain your vaccination info when you sign in with the QR code.

I’ve asked our Bayside Church COVID Safe Team to follow up on two questions:

    • What about people who have recovered from COVID and carry natural immunity? Antibodies stay for at least 6-8 months, which provide protective measures against reinfection.
    • Is there any provision for people to prove they are negative 48 hours from receiving a COVID test? Can they be allowed at a gathering?

Rest assured, Christie and I, and the leaders and pastors of Bayside Church will do all we can to protect and accommodate everyone in our church community. I would expect nothing less from any other church.

Concluding Thoughts

The main issue, as we begin to open up, is to prevent hospitals from becoming overloaded. Vaccinations will reduce the number of people in hospitals. If only vaccinated people could gather in large groups, then hopefully, an outbreak in this group would be less severe. But we need to ensure life is possible for everyone. People who are recovering from COVID can’t get vaccinated, and some people react to the vaccine, so the answer is not simple.

I believe Denmark sets a fine example. Vaccine passports have allowed the Danish people to live a semi-normal life until 80% of 12+ people were vaccinated. Having arrived at that point, they have discarded the passports altogether.

Armed with their pass, people could get a haircut, have a drink with friends or attend a cultural event. “It was getting one’s freedom back instead of having to sit at home in isolation.”

Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said, “the epidemic is under control” but warned: “We are not out of the epidemic,” and the government will act as needed if necessary. A majority in the age group of 50+ had the two shots. The face mask is still mandatory at airports, and people are advised to wear one at the doctor’s, test centres, or hospitals. Physical distancing applies, as do strict entry restrictions for non-Danes at the borders. The outbreak is “an ordinary dangerous illness.”

In Australia, Proof of Vaccination is an interim measure to be utilised as a tool to assist the country in reopening as safely as possible. Once that is achieved, the vaccine passports (or whatever they’re called) will no longer be necessary. SARS-CoV-2 will be endemic in society, and we will need to live with it.

In the meantime, let’s be kind to one another so that our friendships endure longer than the pandemic!

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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7 replies on “Vaccine Passports”

Bryansays:

A very wise summary Rob. Thank you for your sensitivity, as usual, on this issue..

Christinesays:

Hi Rob and Christie
Well Done clear and easily understood. Appreciate the history and remembered I have had to have proof of injection s to travel. I imagine this is a tough time for Pastors. Peace be with you both.

I’m a 2 🙂

Thank you

Heathersays:

It is so refreshing to hear this explained so clearly. I knew people’s arguments were faulty and so many of my Christian friends are developing opposite views to me which causes me great pain. Thanks for the hope you bring. This too will pass.

Linsays:

As usual, so well written and researched. Thank you for taking your time to cover these hard topics. Always so refreshing to read your blog posts.

Mark Mcleansays:

Very well considered and written Rob, thanks.

Jill Hattonsays:

Well written Rob. You need a medal for well balanced thinking and drawing on history for relevance. As usual, your wisdom is very much appreciated.

Rajele Witzlebsays:

Hubby and I are currently in Germany, after receiving a travel permit. Although we were both fully vaccinated, we had to provide a negative PR test to bypass the plane.
Here the ‘3G rule’applies to enter any indoor public place:
Genesen- proof of recovery from Covid in the past 6 months.
Getestet- a negative Covid rapid test from a pharmacy, valid for a limited time.
Geimpft- proof of vaccination status.
Masks are still mandatory indoors as well as distance rules, especially seating in churches, where your attendance is registered regardless.

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