The Globe this week attended a panel discussion by the New Civil Liberties Alliance and a panel of experts to discuss vaccine passports. With California Gov. Gavin Newsom continuing to claim he isn’t requiring vaccine passports in the state, he has instituted a Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record at a state website called “MyVaccineRecord.ca.gov. This is a serious topic with private sector and public sector employers, and public schools and universities.
The NCLA asked the experts two questions:
(1) may the government lawfully compel citizens to take a new, experimental vaccine? and;
(2) does New York’s vaccine passport program, which purports to be voluntary, constitute government compulsion?
The second question pertains to any city or state considering imposing a vaccine passport program.
The discussion covered the legality of vaccine passports, impacts on public health, privacy, and economic implications of such programs, as well as the variety of legitimate reasons a citizen might have for rejecting this attempt at government-sponsored coercion.
NCLA Litigation Counsel Jenin Younes was joined by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, epidemiologist and professor of medicine at Stanford University, and director of Stanford’s Center for Demography and Economics of Health and Aging; Phil Magness, Director of Research & Education at the American Institute for Economic Research; Naomi Wolfe, journalist and author of the book “The Beauty Myth”; and Adam Creighton, former economics editor and current Washington correspondent for The Australian.
What are vaccine passports?
This is both a public and private policy issue since the rollout of the vaccine, Phil Magness said. A vaccine passport is a pass to access the daily life we knew before the pandemic, he explained. He likened it to airport security prior to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. September 11, 2001, and the rollout of the Transportation Security Association’s takeover of airports. “Are airports more secure since 9/11?” he asked. Not necessarily, but it was government overreaching into a previously more private sector function.
“This [vaccine passports] may be a way to calm down the hysterics,” Magness added.
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya addressed it differently. “One relevant point is the fear drummed up by the CDC,” he said, noting that fear is not just a response to the vaccine but a policy response by government to a problem that doesn’t exist.”It’s a balance of risks.”
“For children, COVID is much much less deadly,” Bhattacharya said. He asked rhetorically, “Does it [vaccine] stop the spread of the disease? We don’t know yet. But it’s not a tool to bring the [COVID] numbers to zero. And a vaccine passport is not a guarantee you won’t get COVID.”
“If the goal of the passport is to reduce fear in people, I don’t think it serves that purpose entirely,” Bhattacharya added.
NCLA Litigation Counsel Jenin Younes said as for our Constitutional rights being set aside, they have to show “compelling government interest.”
“Legal balance has to be struck,” Phil Magness said. “And the spector of government overreach needs to be addressed.”
Bhattacharya said the COVID vaccine does not benefit children. And he added that the government cannot use the same argument to mandate the COVID vaccine as the Small Pox vaccine, which was deadly. “What intent does the state have in mandating in older people?” he asked. “Health intervention,” he said, but added that this vaccine needs a distinction from the MMR or Small Pox vaccines.
“The mandate itself completely undermines trust in public health,” Bhattacharya said. “Like ‘if the government is forcing me, then what’s wrong with it?'”
“It’s perverse,” Bhattacharya added. “Why not just trust the public like adults? Tell them ‘here are the benefits and risks, here’s what it will do.’ That is the best way to get people to vaccinate when it makes sense.”
“In the past with Small Pox and Polio and horrible diseases, you haven’t had to make vaccines mandatory,” Adam Creighton said. “People volunteered to get them. The mandate is for those 30% who just don’t want to take the vaccine. Why bother forcing 30% if 60% to 70% take the vaccine? That’s herd immunity.”
Younes brought up the legal perspective of coercing people into getting a vaccine for the benefit of other people, when a disease doesn’t pose a risk to them. “You have the right to refuse the vaccine without having your Constitutional rights restricted because you didn’t want to get the vaccine.”
As for mandating that children must be vaccinated in the fall before going back to school, Bhattacharya said “this is deeply, deeply unethical. My calculation is that the vaccine is not that good for children. There’s almost no benefit to children. And Everybody agrees with that,” he added. “…Maybe the CDC Director might disagree.”
“In that context, you’re just denying children the right to go to school,” he said. “Why would you do that? It’s much more harmful for them to skip school, like the last year and a half in California.”
“Are we going to compound that with another year of missed school for kids whose parents say rationally ‘my kids are not going to benefit from this [vaccine]. Why force them to take it?'” Bhattacharya asked.
“It’s a deeply unethical thing to do,” Bhattacharya said. “We’ve already undermined trust in public education in the country with the policies many of the states have adopted. This will just further that problem.”
There was additional discussion about Dr. Anthony Fauci’s disturbing role, flip flopping on policy, as well as his involvement in the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980’s, which was handled very differently. While Fauci and some in public health wanted to order the closure of nightclubs and gay bars, restrict travel and issue passports for people to prove they didn’t have HIV in the 1980’s, it did not happen. “But the impulse was there,” Adam Creighton said. “It seems we had greater respect for individual rights in the 1980’s than we do now.”
Creighton noted, “Some of the same public health officials pushing this alarmism today were front and center pushing it back in 1983. It’s a retrograde slide we’ve taken in our concern for civil liberties.”
The entire very interesting panel discussion is on the New Civil Liberties Alliance youtube channel, and below:
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