Vaccine Passports: Recommendations for Curtailing Inequity

Vaccine passport programs run the risk of creating a novel underclass of individuals who have neither protection against the virus nor secondary public access privileges. The Justice, Health and Democracy Rapid Response Impact Initiative releases guidance to build trust and minimize inequality.

COVID-19 vaccine credentialing programs, commonly referred to as vaccine passports, are one tool of many that U.S. policy makers might consider to encourage vaccine uptake. Government-sponsored vaccine passports may grant access to national and international travel, and public goods, like in-person schooling. Private-sector, so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports may have more specific uses, such as allowing access to certain restaurants or concert venues.

But how do we roll out these programs without furthering inequality? The Justice, Health and Democracy Rapid Response Impact Initiative releases recommendations for policy makers to drive more equitable implementation and minimize distrust of vaccine passports. Topics covered in the memo include:

  • COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP

    Partnering with community representatives can help to identify community needs, build trust, and guide equitable design.

  • MEDICAL ACCOMMODATIONS

    Individuals who cannot be vaccinated should receive accommodations to access sites that require digital vaccine credentials.

  • NON-MEDICAL ACCOMMODATIONS

    Not everyone with access and ability to receive the COVID-19 vaccines will want to do so. Designing policies to protect individual autonomy, whenever possible, can help alleviate some of these concerns

  • MONITORING AND DISCRIMINATION

    Policing of vaccine status could put the safety and wellbeing of already overpoliced, racialized communities at even greater risk. Safeguards should be in place to reduce discrimination on the basis of age, gender, sexuality, income, race, ethnicity, or ability that comply with all existing anti-discrimination federal and state laws.

  • INTEROPERABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY

    A decentralized model for vaccine passport programs creates a possibility that individuals will need to download multiple apps to go about daily living activities, further disenfranchising low-income individuals.

  • EMPOWERING INDIVIDUAL PRIVACY

    To build public trust in digital vaccine credentialing programs, their design must account for data privacy and security to protect sensitive personal information. 

  • ALTERNATIVES FOR CONSIDERATION

    Asking the question of how to implement vaccine passports should not replace the question of where and when they should be implemented.

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