I would love a COVID-19 vaccine passport. After more than a year in full or partial quarantine, I’m so happy to be vaccinated I want to get the words “FULLY” and “VAXXED” tattooed on my butt and run naked through the streets. (Don’t worry, I won’t. America has suffered enough.)
Unfortunately, vaccine pride is not as prevalent as it should be, and a sizable swath of the population prefers to poo-poo the one thing that can lead us out of a pandemic that has killed more than 550,000 Americans.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden announced that at least one shot has already gone in the arms of more than half of all U.S. adults. More than 80% of citizens 65 and older will be fully or partially vaccinated by the end of the week.
“This is an American achievement, a powerful demonstration of unity and resolve, what unity will do for us, and a reminder of what we can accomplish when we pull together as one people to a common goal,” Biden said.
That made me dream of high-fiving people and encouraging others, in person, to get butt tattoos. But we still can’t do that, because the country needs more people vaccinated before things can return to marginally normal.
And on that point, we most definitely are not pulling together “as one people to a common goal.” A Monmouth University poll released April 14 found 43% of Republicans say they’re unlikely to get the vaccine. That contributes heavily to the 1 in 5 Americans overall who say they won’t get vaccinated.
The reluctance to get a vaccine that scientists around the globe have declared safe and wildly effective—a borderline modern-day miracle—is likely driven by that same 43% of Republicans having verbal sewage pumped into their ears by a parade of opportunistic anti-science nincompoops on Fox News.
The hesitant-to-get-vaccinated are also up in arms over the idea of a vaccine passport, I guess because of “tyranny” or some other incorrect but scary-sounding word. The fear seems to be that the federal government will get involved in people’s medical decisions and records, even though there’s no plan for any form of federal involvement.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently assured Floridians they would never suffer under the yoke of vaccine passports: “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.”
Indeed! It’s an outrage that any private or public entity would require proof that I’m vaccinated and not a potential risk to those around me. I suppose next you’ll be telling me I need to wear “shoes” and “a shirt” at a restaurant, or that I need a so-called “license” to drive, or that my children cannot “attend school” without “getting the whooping cough vaccine.”
Look, it’s easy for the vaccine-proud to write off the vaccine-wary as stubborn or unreasonable, but the vaccine-wary could keep us from reaching herd immunity and increase the risk of weird, dangerous COVID-19 mutations. Without enough vaccinations, we can’t breathe easy and swim out of the undertow of stress that sucked us down more than a year ago.
So until vaccine opponents can be convinced otherwise, vaccine passports are necessary. Companies and restaurants and concert venues need to make sure people are vaccinated and don’t pose a risk to other workers or diners or guests. (The vaccines are great, but nothing is 100% effective, and variants could create problems even for vaccinated folks.)
Those who don’t want to get vaccinated are free to take a principled stand. And companies, restaurants, concert venues and other places are free to direct them elsewhere, because the rest of us are trying to enjoy ourselves.
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.