Sunday, 3 January 2021

Would a "vaccine passport" app make flying safer? No.

Travel advice columnist Christopher Elliott has already been taking flack from some travel companies and (sadly) some travelers for urging people tempted to travel to stay home until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control (as I’ve also urged).

Now Chris has probably made some more enemies with his latest column in the Washington Post arguing (as I’ve also argued) for continued use of the current international standard “Yellow Card” (International Certificate of Vaccination) as a way to record COVID-19 vaccines, rather than some new smartphone-based immunity passport app such as the ones being pushed by airlines. I’m with Chris a hundred percent on this:

The best Yellow Card may be the Yellow Card, also called the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. It might be the leading candidate for an international coronavirus vaccine passport. It’s already recognized internationally. If you are vaccinated for any travel illness, like yellow fever, the provider will send you a Carte Jaune. When you get a coronavirus vaccine, just ask your health-care provider to note your vaccination on your Yellow Card.

I dug out my Yellow Book, which I always carry when I travel internationally but haven’t needed for several years, and I’ll bring it when I get a COVID-19 vaccination, as soon as that’s available for people in my fairly low category of risk and inessential work.

Expanding on his column in the Post, Chris quotes me in his newsletter on a couple of points that may call for more explanation.

First, face masks at airports. Here’s the deal:

Wearing a mask is the most significant thing we can do to protect ourselves and others in public spaces. When I think about flying during the pandemic, the part of the trip that frightens me most is the moment at the TSA checkpoint when I would be forced to remove my mask.

There hasn’t been nearly enough attention paid to how much the TSA is endangering travelers’ lives during an airborne pandemic by forcing them to remove their face masks masks for ID checks, whether those visual checks against ID photos are made by TSA agents or contractors or by automated facial recognition.

Forcing each flyer to remove their mask — in the same spot where another traveler was just doing the same thing, and another will be after them — is likely to cost many more lives than those that might be lost as a result of people both selfish and dishonest enough to lie about their infection or vaccination status in order to fly while unvaccinated.

So I think it would be a mistake to frame this issue as “saving lives vs. privacy”. Any “vaccine passport” (whether on a cellphone or a WHO/CDC Yellow Book) depends on verifying that the person presenting the “passport” is the person to whom the data pertains. And that is done by making people remove their masks, so that their faces can be compared with ID photos.

Through compelled mask-removal, lives are being sacrificed to ID verification and control of travel, which is an obscene betrayal of any idea that the Department of Homeland “Security” and the Transportation “Security” Administration are making us more “secure”.

At San Francisco International Airport (SFO), for example, San Mateo County health orders require the wearing of face masks throughout the airport, as in all other public spaces. The TSA and its contractors are forcing anyone who wants to fly out of SFO to violate those health orders. It’s unclear whether they have legal authority to do so, but it’s certainly immoral.

If the DHS and TSA really wants to make flyers safer, rather than use the pandemic as a pretext to advance long-term goals of surveillance and control of our movements, they should end the ID checks that require travelers to remove their face masks at TSA checkpoints.

If President-Elect Biden is serious about applying science to policy during the pandemic, this is something he should order on his first day in office.

Second, the “security” of vaccination certificates:

Regardless of whether vaccinations are recorded on paper or electronically, people who are selfish enough to try to travel while unvaccinated and potentially infectious will still be able to cheat.

Nothing in any of the proposals, whether for wider use of the WHO/CDC “Yellow Book” or any smartphone app, would stop someone from borrowing the ID and phone of someone who looks similar, and flying in their name.

So with “vaccine apps” as with paper records like the Yellow Book, it’s not about “security vs. privacy”. It’s about “security theater as pretext for surveillance and control”.

Don’t travel until you’ve been vaccinated, unless you need to. Seriously: I mean “need” (enough to risk strangers’ lives — other travellers and airport workers, and their families — as well as your own), not “want”.

But just say no to any demand to use a travel app as a condition for travel, by air or otherwise.

Link | Posted by Edward on Sunday, 3 January 2021, 14:16 ( 2:16 PM)

I'm not yet eligible to be vaccinated (I will get vaccinated as soon as I can), but a friends who was vaccinated had no trouble getting their vaccinations recorded in their Yellow Book.

COVID-19 vaccination sites in then US are unlikely to have blank CDC/WHO Yellow Books available (they are mostly handing out CDC vaccination cards that don;t meet international standards), so you will need to bring your own Yellow Book.

If you don't already have a Yellow Book from previous vaccinations, get a blank one before your COVID-19 vaccination appointment. If you plan to get vaccinated, as I hope you will, order a Yellow Book now.

The CDC version of the Yellow Book is, unsurprisingly, on backorder from the U.S. Government Printing Office:

Even when Yellow Books are in stock from the GPO, the GPO only only sells them in bulk since they are typically distributed through doctors and public health services:

Many third party resellers have Yellow Cards in stock and available on eBay, etc. You get get a single copy or a pack for your family and friends.

You don't have to get your blank book directly from the government -- the resellers are perfectly legitimate, so far as I can tell. What's important is that the Yellow Book be in the proper format and have the doctor's signature and other info properly recorded for each shot.

Posted by: Edward Hasbrouck, 21 March 2021, 10:56 (10:56 AM)
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