Proponents of vaccine passports argue these kinds of identification documents will better enable the private sector to reopen. As mass vaccination programs are being rolled out, those who have completed their prescribed inoculations will supposedly be able to work on-site or enjoy leisure activities without harming others.
These same proponents also believe the passports can incentivize people who are hesitant to get vaccinated.
Other experts are far more skeptical. For starters, a vaccine passport could be discriminatory against Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
BIPOCs, notably African Americans and Hispanic Americans, are more reluctant to take the COVID-19 vaccine because of past racist and dangerous health policies that have specifically targeted their communities. These include highly unethical and unjustified programs like the Tuskegee experiments and the Puerto Rico contraception trials.
In the Tuskegee experiments, a group of Black men with syphilis were told that they would be receiving the healthcare they needed. But they didn't because the study was meant to examine the progression of untreated syphilis.
In the Puerto Rico trials, a group of women were given what they understood to be pills that prevented pregnancies. These women were not fully informed of the potential side effects and many began experiencing serious complications.
The Tuskegee study and the Puerto Rico trials led to the deaths of multiple Black men and Puerto Rican women.
An added complication to the potentially discriminatory vaccine passport is the issue of logistics. Many countries do not have sufficient access to vaccines to allow governments to immunize their entire populations. Policy professionals are concerned this might widen the gap even further between the developed and the developing worlds.
Other public health officials are concerned that vaccine passports might give people "false assurances" that they are safe from the coronavirus. Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, a British clinical epidemiologist, told CNBC that holidaymakers might be lulled into thinking they are safe from the virus.
"I can see that they might be useful in the longer term," said Gurdasani, "but I have several concerns about them being considered at this point in time when I think the scientific evidence doesn't support them. And there are lots of ethical concerns about them that I think are legitimate."
Gurdasani mentioned that the supposed protection coronavirus vaccines offer is "very far" from complete.
"We know very little about the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infection or even asymptomatic disease against several variants circulating in different countries," he said. (Related: Vaccine makers express confidence that their shots can take on new "mutant" strain of the same coronavirus their colleagues engineered in the first place.)
The effects of just considering vaccine passports can already be felt both in national policy and in the way businesses operate. Multiple countries around the world are already considering implementing vaccine passports.
Greece, Denmark and Austria are considering requiring vaccine passports for international travel. The United Kingdom is considering a similar requirement. It is also going further by reviewing whether or not to require "immunity certificates" for entry into offices and leisure activity areas. (Related: Vaccine passports pose data privacy risks, UK Information Commissioner.)
Israel has already begun issuing "green passports" that allow vaccinated citizens to enter hotels and gyms and go to concerts. These green passports will soon be expanded to allow people to dine in at restaurants and bars.
The private sector has already taken further steps.
British vacation operator Saga PLC has begun requiring customers to provide proof that they have received two doses of the coronavirus vaccine before they can board the company's cruise ships. Shai Wininger, co-founder of New York-based insurance company Lemonade Inc., said he will only meet face-to-face with employees and clients who have been vaccinated.
Big Shopping Centers, LTD, an Israeli mall operator, said unvaccinated suppliers, workers and guests will not be given access to its management offices. Many other Israeli business leaders have stated that they will require their employees to be vaccinated.
Learn more about the potentially dangerous side effects of implementing vaccine passports by reading the latest articles at Vaccines.news.