Get over it: COVID passports are going to happen

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

On this Easter Sunday — one that feels a whole lot different than the one a year ago — there is both hope and fear.

We’re close. More than a third of the adult population of Pennsylvania, as of Saturday, has had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, with thousands more happening daily. Just short of 2 million have had both shots. Supply, while still not what we’d like to see, is improving and we’re just weeks away from a day when anyone over 16 will be able to get a shot if they want one, with everyone eligible to book appointments later this month.

“If they want one,” though, is the big remaining question of when we are able to finally put this all behind us and resume something like a normal life.

Yes, I understand why some people were initially hesitant about getting the shots — particularly as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a very new and somewhat untested technology. I don’t blame people for waiting and watching. With more than 100 million shots in arms nationally and few issues, many of those who were cautious are no longer waiting, which is a good thing.

Still, we have a segment of the population that is selfish and ignorant, and as with wearing masks, refuses to do their part to help end the pandemic. This is not about the percentage of the population that is immune-compromised, allergic or otherwise has health issues preventing vaccination — we don’t know enough yet to determine whether some or all of those folks can safely get the vaccine, so those folks should rightly hold off.

I’m talking about mostly white males — some of whom serve in our state legislature — who trot out some harebrained claim of “liberty” or whatever they heard on Fox News, OAN or NewsMax or on some social media site. Sure, those happen to be talking points currently being amplified by Russian intelligence and other foreign actors who want to sew chaos in the U.S. and low our recovery from the pandemic, but they cling to these bogus arguments like an old teddy bear.

The newest argument — which is utter crap — is the new rants about vaccine passports and requiring said passports for things like schools, air travel, sporting events, cruises and such. 

The challenge of coming up with a safe, dependable application that can be used quickly and without violating health privacy will be a big one. A single, worldwide standard will be needed and likely have to be backed by one of the tech giants such as Apple or Google. For those without smartphones, there would be a way to print out a QR code — as one can do with baseball tickets (the era of printed tickets for MLB is over, it seems — you need a smartphone or a QR code to get into ballparks this summer). Other countries are moving quickly in this direction and so will the United States, despite the pandering, ignorant statements of some state legislators in many states, including Pennsylvania.

The nefarious claims about  such applications — and unConstitutional state moves to ban them — is pathetic.

We have routinely required vaccines for school enrollment and travel and have for decades. The emergence of COVID makes having a master application for such vaccines all the more needed, not some violation of personal liberties. If you have a smartphone, your privacy is already entirely compromised: big companies know where you go, what you do, what you say and said data is often transmitted to government agencies during criminal investigations (note all the U.S. Capitol rioters losing their minds because their cell phones ratted them out). That ship sailed a decade ago.

Beyond the privacy issue: you don’t have a right to infect other people. 

Right now, if you don’t have a meningitis vaccine, you’re not getting into college. Period. There’s a lengthy list of vaccines kids need to attend public school. Yes, there are exemptions — some still buy into lies about the impact of vaccine while others claim religious grounds.

If you choose not to get a vaccine, deal with the consequences. You’ll be a threat to other, responsible people who you might infect (as we’re already seeing a spike in cases, thanks to the idiots who refuse to wear a mask). So boo-hoo if you can’t attend a Phillies game or go to the movies — you made a choice, live with it. Personal responsibility, right?

Most of us will be very happy to be able to show proof of vaccination if it means we can get back to something like a normal life — while keeping ourselves and everyone else safe.

It’s ultimately your choice, but don’t assume you have the right skip the vaccine and return to attending concerts and ball games.

We all have a shared responsibility in beating this virus, if you’re not willing to do your part, you don’t deserve to benefit from things reopening.

Choices have consequences. Deal with it. 

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