Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

What is Immunity Passport?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Immunity Passport

Mains level : Issues with Immunity Passport

In a bid to ease travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, countries like Denmark, Estonia, Israel, Chile, UK have announced a new ‘immunity passport.’

Try this question form mains:

Q.Discuss various ethical issues evolved during the outbreaks of pandemics (of the scale of COVID-19).

Immunity Passport

  • They are the recovery or release certificate or a document attesting that its bearer is immune to a contagious disease.
  • The concept has drawn much attention during the COVID-19 pandemic as a potential way to contain the pandemic and permit faster economic recovery.
  • The can be used as a legal document granted by a testing authority following a serology test demonstrating that the bearer has antibodies making them immune to a disease.

Ethical issues involved

  • Issuing ‘immunity certificates’ to people who have recovered can be an ethical minefield.
  • Doctors do not generally prefer immunity to be induced by natural infection compared with vaccines. It seems logical, but there are multiple challenges.
  • There might be long-term health complications in those who had COVID-19, whereas the vaccine will have minimal or no adverse health consequences.
  • There is a danger that similar arguments will be made for other vaccine-preventable diseases for which we have a universal immunisation programme.

Public health risk

  • People whose livelihood has have been affected would be encouraged to adopt risky behaviour so as to get infected rather than taking precautions to stay protected from the virus.
  • This would lead to a sharp increase in cases across the country with huge numbers requiring hospitalization.
  • Such a situation would lead to testing capabilities getting overwhelmed, crumbling of the health-care systems and increased deaths.

Threats over malpractices

  • Immunity certification will include a system for identification and monitoring, thus compromising privacy.
  • Other contentious issues would be profiteering by private labs performing tests, and the menace of fake certificates which we have already seen in some Indian states.
  • In the end, an immunity passport will further divide the society with different ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.

Way forward

  • We need to look at COVID-19 with a sense of balance and not hysteria.
  • Terms such as immunity passports may not have relevance as we do not know anything about specific kinds of immune responses and the duration of protection in people.
  • There is currently not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’.
  • The permission to travel or work should be decided on a case by case basis, according to the principles of ethics while dealing with a pandemic.
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