Some weeks ago, an important decision was taken regarding vaccine certificates in Hungary. The government introduced the document to give certain privileges to those who have received their shots.
While the pandemic is still causing serious problems in many countries, Hungary is already concentrating on the long and gradual process of reopening the country.
The European Union is also working on the same, planning on introducing the vaccine passport to facilitate travel between its member states. What are these certificates and passports actually for and what problems can their introduction cause?
Both the EU and Hungary are taking the example of Israel where a so-called “green pass” is already in use for those who are protected against covid because they were vaccinated. Certain privileges are obtained by them, such as going to the gym, the cinema, the theatre, or a restaurant.
The vaccine certificates already issued in Hungary and the vaccine passport of the EU would both serve the same objective: give privileges for those who are safe from covid.
There are some problems, however, and not only on one level, writes blog.atlatszo.hu.
First of all, who is actually protected against covid? Someone who was vaccinated, has received one or two of their shots, but can still get infected and spread the virus without realising it? Receiving even the first jab can give a fake feeling of protection since all vaccines need around 2 weeks to form a complete and reliable shield, and as we know, even vaccines do not protect us from the infection, they just mitigate symptoms and help us avoid having to go to the hospital and have serious or any kind of side-effects.
On the other hand, our lives have been somewhat controlled in the past year.
The passport would give a solution for at least one part of society to get back to normality.
Meanwhile, the question arises: is it actually possible to regulate and control basic human rights? According to international law, it is not forbidden, however, it cannot be autocratic either, and a well-defined and lawful objective is needed, apart from determining the necessity of the introduced control. The other question is whether these regulations can be legitimate when it comes to public well-being and healthcare, public safety, and the economy of the country.
Our freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, or our right to a private life have been very much haltered these past months.
The introduction of a vaccine passport would maintain the same kind of control for those who do not have it.
On the other hand, it would at least give some freedom back to those who do have their passports: they could go to the cinema, to a restaurant, to a mass event, or could even travel within the country, contributing to tourism, one of the sectors that are suffering a lot. Overall, it would do good to the economy of the whole country. Nevertheless, the question of work in general is not defined yet, meaning that we do not know whether the passport would be a help for people to go and take up work again.
An important point is the introduction date of the passport. The vaccination coverage of the population needs to reach a certain percentage for the passport to make sense. Taking the example of Israel, for instance, their “green pass” was only introduced after 55% of people received at least their first shot and 43% were already completely vaccinated.
Another issue that arises whenever we talk about a document containing information about its owner is the collection, storage, and use by private sectors of all the data provided by the customer. This segment needs to be very well regulated but, unfortunately, there is no information in this regard at the moment when it comes to a possible Hungarian vaccine passport system.
In many countries, the introduction would cause an even bigger gap in society between rich and poor as the vaccine would not be available for the most sensitive groups. Fortunately, in Hungary, this cannot be the case thanks to the principle of non-discriminative universal health coverage.
Still, there is one problem when it comes to the inclusiveness of the healthcare system.
The sometimes unfair order caused by giving priority to certain groups.
Vaccinating the most endangered layers of society is indeed important, however, they are not always the group that would very soon go back to their original way of life and, more importantly, the group who would go back to work. Furthermore, what about kids or people with underlying conditions who cannot even be vaccinated? What about people who have just recently won against covid and cannot be vaccinated for 3 to 6 months?
Even though the vaccination process is going great in Hungary,
the EU does not accept the Chinese and the Russian vaccines, for now at least. This can very easily cause problems once someone tries to travel within the EU after being vaccinated with one of these injections.
The most important aspect right now is the fact that as long as Hungary keeps on breaking negative records of new cases and number of deaths every single day, the passport makes very little sense. It is, in fact, quite discriminative as it gives individual freedom to those vaccinated, but in many cases, based on the aforementioned and not so well-structured vaccination priority list, this group is not the one that would need it the most.
If it is introduced, it is important to note that these passports should have an expiration date terminating with the end of the pandemic. All scientific research and findings along the way should be taken into consideration, and the system should be updated so. All data protection criteria should be respected, and the necessity and proportion of regulations should be established.