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Opinion |  The reality of vaccine passports

Strong opinions. Open debates. Only occasional screams. “The Argument” is a weekly ideas show, hosted by Jane Coaston.

More than 19% of Americans are fully immunized against the coronavirus and more than 665 million doses of the vaccine have been administered worldwide. As these numbers continue to rise, countries have started issuing or considering “vaccine passports”.

Vaccine passports – proof via a phone app or on a piece of paper that you’ve been vaccinated – are a potential ticket to freedom for millions of people vaccinated around the world. Israel already has them. The European Union and China have also announced a version. In the United States, there is talk of what such a certification might look like.

But vaccine passports also raise huge ethical questions, with 85% of the world’s vaccines having been administered in richer countries. And with private tech companies working to create these passports in the United States, there are concerns about the risks of sharing health records with third-party apps. Texas and Florida have banned government-prescribed vaccine passports.

In today’s episode, our guests debate the concept of the vaccine passport and discuss the ethical and confidentiality considerations that go with them. Natalie Kofler is a molecular biologist and bioethicist at Harvard Medical School. Ramin Bastani is the founder and CEO of Healthvana, a patient platform that provides test results and provides vaccine passports. He says we should think of them more as a daily health record – and he thinks we need them to keep everyone safe. Next, we turn to voicemail messages from listeners sharing their thoughts on reopening schools.

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We want to know what you are arguing about with your family, friends and enemies. Leave us a voicemail message at (347) 915-4324. We can use snippets of your audio in a future episode.

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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez and Vishakha Darbha and edited by Alison Bruzek and Paula Szuchman; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair; musical and sound design by Isaac Jones.

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