top of page
  • Raghav Sand

Covid-19 Delta Variant Panic and Vaccine Passport

The Delta variant of Covid-19 virus isn’t necessarily more lethal, but it can infect more people. The earlier versions were less transmissible and the infected person spread the virus to three other people on an average. Delta on the other hand, can be spread to six other people by the infected person. The viral load of the Delta variant is 1260 times stronger than previously reported viruses. Health experts have a split opinion about the possible impact of the Delta variant and some have said that it is going to get worse before it gets better.

An increasing number of breakthrough infections are being reported across the world. As a consequence, indoor and outdoor mask-wearing mandates are back in places which had relaxed Covid-19 protocols in the past few months. Vaccinated individuals are a fraction of the total number of severe cases and are more or less recovering from the strain of the virus through home isolation. All the vaccines have delivered on their promise and have kept hospitalization among the vaccinated to low levels. The Delta variant has been dubbed as the most contagious among all the mutations of the coronavirus, so far.

Until vaccination rates reach herd immunity levels, we cannot lower the guard. Even vaccinated individuals should follow mask-wearing mandate, whether they are among the vaccinated or unvaccinated people. We share our homes with children and elderly, who continue to remain in the vulnerable category. Spare a thought for them! A vaccine for children is in the works and for schools and colleges to resume, the infection rates have to drastically come down. Such is the situation on ground, that any lapse in following health guidelines will steer the pursuit to normalcy in the wrong direction. Those vaccinated are virtually bulletproof, not actually.

Vaccine Passport: Logistics and Ethics

As more and more people get vaccinated for Covid-19, countries are trying to figure out how to ease restrictions placed travel and public gatherings. As per a United Nations statement, 75% of all vaccinations for Covid-19 have taken place in just ten countries. Consequently, there is a new segregation of haves and have-nots. Herd immunity across the world is a distant dream, but it will be achieved in proactive and prosperous continents and regions.

Vaccination is a public health measure. If the risk of severe infection comes down, stay-at-home guidance will be eased in affected regions. World Health Organization has been vocal about the unequal access to vaccine. Continents like Africa have been neglected by everyone and the risk of a prolonged disruption cannot be ruled out.

The question of fairness needs to be addressed immediately, otherwise the socio-economic cost of such isolation can be catastrophic. Business, leisure and medical tourism will be impacted severely and a new class of citizens will emerge. Those who propagate equity and opportunity must take the Covid-19 vaccination rollout as a wake-up call.

European Union and China are already using the concept of vaccine passport or digital green pass. Under this arrangement a QR code or track and trace mobile application incorporates information about a person’s vaccination status, past infections etc. Some experts say, such measures will encourage the young and doubtful to take the vaccine; mobility is being used as an incentive. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national public health agency of the United States, has not set any rules in this regard due to absence of standard vaccination procedures across the world.

The speed at which Covid-19 vaccine has been developed and deployed is unprecedented. Medical science is unsure whether the vaccinated people can or cannot spread or catch the virus. The reasonable assurance and efficacy rates of more than half-dozen vaccines are an attempt to curb outbreaks. Airlines and hospitality industry have been the strongest advocates of vaccine passports. Tourism dependent countries are rolling out various measure to draw travelers; Covid-19 test on arrival, discounted stay during quarantine and emergency air evacuation in case of contracting the virus are some of the practices being advertised and followed.

Ethics and logistics of vaccine passports is a contentious issue. Privacy activists have been skeptical about providing access to health data. They believe that such information can be hacked and mischievous actors armed with sensitive data may target them. Israel has been leading the world in vaccination for Covid-19; it has begun issuing green passports to those who are getting immunized. Vaccination is not compulsory in Israel, but it has passed a law to identify those who are not vaccinated. Such details will be shared with local health officials in order to track and test these people as and when they deem fit. Cruise operators in Europe have started to ask people for proof of shots before boarding the ship.

Health information has now become transactional and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

bottom of page