Monday, March 29, 2021

Vaccine Passport

The discussions are already loading up whether this is dangerous, unamerican, ripe for civil rights abuses, etc. I think my concern comes even farther back up the chain.  Is there any evidence this will actually accomplish anything in terms of public health? It sounds like it might if you imagine infected people boarding airplanes and sneezing their way to New Orleans, but lots of things sound like they might work. Our imaginations are unreliable guides for legislation. In this it is similar to Second Amendment rights questions (there may be distinctions that have not yet occurred to me). There isn't any evidence that proposed gun control legislation will increase safety, and it might actually make things worse. Therefore, the question should not even make it to the table.

I do understand that many reverse this framing and say "First, let us note that this is an infringement on liberties and should be rejected on that basis."  I don't object. I may think more like an engineer than a lawyer.

I think the twin solutions are admired for similar reasons.  They both make some people feel safer when they imagine simplistic narratives, that is, stories they quickly imagine about how illness could be spread or someone could be shot.

It gets difficult for private companies. An airline might have good data showing that requiring a vaccine ID provides no added safety benefit, but if the public believes it does, they will fly other airlines. Where do you draw the line between not being bullied and just saying "Eh, it's all about advertising and perception anyway. Put on the show and stay in business."

Updates: Someone at National Review does not think there is evidence that a vaccine passport would create any positive benefit.  He quotes some interesting people, and notes that some groups have difficulty obtaining a vaccine and others have legitimate reasons for caution.

In the online arguments, I notice that the sides quickly split into people who are opposed to the vaccine itself (and often all vaccines) and thus feel they are being forced to get something unsafe in order to exercise rights of movement and interaction that are foundational as American, versus people who are asserting that all who oppose the vaccine passport are unscientific conspiracy theorists who oppose all vaccines.  When those poles are set up, they become self-fulfilling, as the antivaxxers look like the whole other side to the passport-demanders, and inflexible tyrannical sheeple look like the whole of the other side.  People who have any view between those poles have a hard time getting heard over the shouting.


Grim said...

The discussion is oddly placed amid the parallel discussion of how requirements for voter identification are tantamount to voter suppression. Yet you’d need an ID to engage in travel, staying in a hotel, ordinary sorts of commerce? How can people possibly expect to survive to the next election if they can’t get their paperwork in order to obtain IDs?

Reportedly one needs an ID to get vaccinated anyway. So why not use the same ID to vote? Or the “passport” that you needed the ID to obtain the shot that got you a passport?

The Bee has thoughts.

Aggie said...

Having worked in many foreign countries over the years, I still have my yellow shot card, which was required with my passport for entry into quite a few places. But that was in the days when pandemics were still in charge in a lot of under-developed nations. It is not the case today, public health having advanced past this antiquated measure. I haven't had to carry it in this millennium.

I think the reason that many people object to the idea of a COVID passport is because it conforms with the whole tone of this pandemic, with instances of control over-reach for the wrong reasons. Poorly-supported science being translated into strongly-worded public policy measures that have cost people their livelihoods in fines and license revocations, for instance. Many people see this as a form of tyranny. I think people have grown impatient with it, having seen the success of states like Florida and Texas and others, and having seen the 'haves' and 'have-nots' tier system in the stricter states, where the politically-connected have the doors opened for them. Having a system like this, 'exceptions-for-the-entitled', destroys public confidence. As does witnessing Congress, approaching the corporate world to buy into the idea of using the passport to limit access for the 'unclean', so these politicians won't suffer the embarrassment of having to pass unpopular legislation. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence in leadership when it behaves in these unscrupulous ways, relying on an equally unscrupulous media to defend the perimeter.

Sam L. said...

I was given my card showing I've had both shots. I'm carrying mine in my pocket, so that I can say "Mein papiers, Herr OBERST!"

Texan99 said...

I'd love to see airlines offer passport flights and no-passport flights, see which fill up and what the ticket prices do.

Thinking like an engineer may tell you what's likely to work. Thinking like a lawyer tells you what to do when other people assert the right to impose their own engineered solutions on you without convincing the engineer in you that they'll work.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think it's a stretch to say that Texas and Florida are a success. They are average, despite being more open, both earlier and later. That's not bad, and telling about what is helpful but let's not get carried away. Their metro areas are still up against it. The important part going forward is to note that they did not descend into chaos with huge death rates, as many of the people in favor of more lockdown predicted. It's worth knowing. They get added points because both have high obesity rates as well, which affects the mortality rate, as I recently noted. So they stayed average even with two supposed negatives and one positive - lots of Vitamin D.

But back to the passports. The few online discussions I have seen have quickly split into people who object to the vaccine itself, vs critics who say everyone who objects to the passport is an anti-vaxxer. Makes me crazy.

Christopher B said...

The intersection with voting seems to me something of a side issue, though an important one, if the contention is that we will required vaccine passports for marginalized groups but not voting ids. This seems to be in more direct conflict with the 'advice' that people who are vaccinated should maintain various pandemic protocols. The vaccine either protects you (and others) or it doesn't. Which is it?

Texan99 said...

I'm a big vaxxer, someone who got my jab the first instant I could. I never try to persuade people to get vaccinated, but I do what I can to get information to interested parties that will enable them to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Now and then, I respond to a factual statement about a danger of vaccination that I think is not well-grounded (what's with the belief that the new vaccines alter DNA?), but I drop it fast if I sense it's unwelcome or pointless. There's never any need to respond to a general "I say it's all a plot and I say the heck with it" sentiment. People can make their own choices. I don't want to be the COVID equivalent of people who feel they need to lecture me about whatever they believe this week on the subject of "healthy" food.

Masks and lockdowns are a completely different issue. Of course it's fine for someone to stay home or wear a mask to his heart's content; the only question is whether he may force me to do the same. I started out willing to avoid public contact, for my own purposes of avoiding an ill-understood but scary risk. As time has gone on, there seems less and less evidence that masks or lockdowns help much. It's not so much that freer states have done better, though of course we have done MUCH better economically. It's more that it's unclear we've done any worse than Karen states medically. In this case, the tie goes to the freedom initiative, because there would have to be evidence that the precautions actually improve virus casualty performance in order for them to be remotely justified. A year ago, fine, we needed to try some things. Right now, the anti-choice approach is running out of plausible justifications. Are we 100% sure? Of course not, but that's not the standard for deciding issues of freedom.

Texan99 said...

Christopher B, I'd say it's not a question of whether the vaccine absolutely does or does not protect. It protects quite well, but not perfectly. What's important is whether it reduces the risk to a level that's well below anything that would continue to justify such draconian protective measures. COVID already was a somewhat remote risk, considering how unlikely any individual was, first to contract it, and then, to suffer badly from it. When you take that small but scary risk and reduce it by 95% or so, it's hard to see clinging to the old fear as much short of hysteria. We live with the risk of infectious disease all the time, but we don't let terror of meningitis keep us home for years on end.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

One of the vaccines works differently than previous ones. It teaches your body to fight the infection via your mRNA.

People see "RNA" and think "Oh no, that's like first cousin to your DNA and aaiieee!" The DNA is not affected.

Texan99 said...

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines all introduce manufactured mRNA into your cells, which instructs your ribosomes to churn out proteins that mimic the COVID external spikes. This mRNA is lab-designed, amino acid by amino acid, and carefully includes an alternative base for the spike where otherwise it would have fit into the virus shell. It never goes near your cell nucleus and therefore doesn't involve your DNA in any way.

J&J is different. It uses an adenovirus shell, into which is injected what I think is some pieces of natural COVID virus DNA, the parts that code for the same protein spike. These pieces of DNA use the adenovirus shell to get not just into your cells but actually into your cell nucleus, and there recruit their own mRNA made by your body by the same process your body uses mRNA to pick up little pieces of your own DNA. The J&J vaccine is hardier, not having to be frozen, and lasts longer in your body because DNA is so much more stable than mRNA. It's much closer to your DNA, but still (as far as I can tell) doesn't "get into" your DNA.

Old-fashioned vaccines just kill natural COVID virus and, after a demonstration that it's been denatured and rendered harmless. I think they just go into your bloodstream and cause your immune system to react to whatever pieces of the virus are included, without using RNA or DNA to create any new proteins. I think this describes the Astra-Zeneca vaccine or, if not, then at least the vaccines now being used by Russian and Iran.

Aggie said...

"Their metro areas are still up against it"

By which metric, I wonder? The mask mandate was lifted just about a month ago and businesses returned to 100% capacity. The governor was labeled 'Neanderthal' by the Dodderer-in-Chief, and even yesterday there were official admonishments and pleading to reinstate mask controls. I don't mind public health measures, but they ought to be supported and defensible by rational thought.

"..critics who say everyone who objects to the passport is an anti-vaxxer." Yes, this is rather block-headed. I think such critics can be silenced by suggesting the passport should incorporated into voluntary Voter ID cards.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think the exchanges of insults are irrelevant. Irritating, but I am trying to put that aside and not let it influence my decisions.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Also my son is in Harris County, so I am attuned to the case rate and death rate there. Texas started late but caught up to the national average. As I have mentioned before, I don't think they have done terribly and I think they may have only opened a little early. But I can't call their results good, either. I get that people believe the economic tradeoff is worth it. But that's an opinion.

Aggie said...

Excuse me (?), not sure what provoked this response but I was not insulting you nor was I intending to be offensive. Geez. The Texas Tribune website has had pretty up-to-date information throughout this sad period and I was pointing out that by nearly all of its state-wide metrics, things appear to be well within manageable criteria with no region showing any particular high level of infrastructure stress. And 3+ weeks after the state has opened, there has been no spike of infections.

And one of the most important lessons has been that the schools have been opened since last fall, with openings structured to allow parents to choose whether they want their kid to attend virtually or in person (with the vast majority sending them back to the classroom) and again, no untoward results - as per the CDC's recommendations.

It's not just economic tradeoffs that are important. The damage wrought by keeping people, especially children, penned up is going to be with us and unfolding for years. My own mother (93) has been isolated in Assisted Living for over a year. And yet there is no mechanism whereby a primary caregiver can jump through the same hoops as the staff (i.e. regular testing and whatever other protocols) to be able to see and attend to her needs the way family should.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I am looking at the death numbers for the entire run of the disease, and Texas is average even after a slow start with little exposure. In this comment and others you seem to be saying that it is doing well. I pushed back against that. I don't say that you were praising it excessively or without thought, only that I think you are shading to a positive that is not quite deserved.

There is a lot of speculation what the damage to people from the lockdown is, especially children, but on a few sites we both go to, it is considered a given and the reporting is one-sided. Many of those links are opinions, without hard data behind them. I am irritated with them, not you, as you have dealt with give-and-take before. I am perhaps overprotective that I don't want that coming here from any side. We have people who I think have been quick to accuse how terribly more open states have done, and I have come down on that harder, if anything.