Head to Head: the ethics of vaccine passports and COVID passes

HK: I disagree with you on the idea that everyone can have a vaccine if they want to because they’re available for everyone. It assumes an equality that doesn’t exist. Maybe by law and maybe technically they’re available, but as I said, some people are distrusting and some people are hesitant.
Inequalities related to poverty or ethnicity that lead some people to distrust and others to be hesitant are feeding into who gets vaccinated and who doesn’t. Some people’s experiences of life are shaped by social inequalities. I don’t think you can ignore them because, in theory, there’s a vaccine for anyone who wants it.
I always refuse to make predictions, but the future is where the concern lies, isn’t it? It’s the concern of privacy advocates and of organisations like Big Brother Watch that vaccine passports may lead us to a checkpoint society or a more surveillance-based state. And even if there was a policy that guaranteed it isn’t going to happen, that could change in the future. Policies change, circumstances change.
The philosopher Giorgio Agamben talks about the state of exception. His argument is that if you always describe things as a state of exception, you can try to get away with murder all of the time.
What’s interesting is that maybe a year and a half ago, the language of crisis could be mobilised to justify measures that people might not find acceptable in normal times. But a year and a half later, it is still mobilised as a justification for things.
I think the concern about where this is heading is valid. And it’s been there since the beginning of the pandemic with any kind of data gathering process. Things that have been introduced ostensibly because of the pandemic, are being pushed to be carried on after the pandemic. And those are the sorts of things that should worry us, I think.