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SMART Health Cards: Smart or dumb idea?

Virginia is one of the states quietly adopting a national vaccine pass system called the SMART Health Card. While there is currently no federal digital vaccine pass, according to Forbes magazine, twenty one states (soon to be more) offer the SMART Health Card, “a verifiable digital proof of vaccination developed through the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), a global coalition of public and private stakeholders including Microsoft, Salesforce, Oracle, the Mayo Clinic, and other health and tech heavyweights.” [1] Now over 200 million Americans can access their vaccination records via QR code.

With the encroachment on medical freedoms over the past few years, this seems to be another step in the wrong direction. While having digital access to one's vaccination records may appear to be a convenience, it is clear that this further enables an encroachment on our civil liberties. It makes it significantly easier for private businesses and public institutions to discriminate against those who do not or can not comply with vaccination recommendations or mandates.

Multiple studies (here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) have shown that those vaccinated against Covid-19 carry similar viral loads as the unvaccinated. And yet this ludicrous idea persists that being around unvaccinated individuals increases one's chance of getting Covid-19. Tools like the SMART Health Card will further perpetuate this false "peace" of mind: “We believe [proof of vaccination] gives people peace of mind when the folks around them are less likely to be contagious,” says Gus Warren, CEO of Bindle, a health verification app used by venues such as the Kennedy Center to verify the vaccination status of guests. [2]

According to the nonprofit publication The Vaccine Reaction, signing up for the SMART Health Card is currently voluntary. The digital application contains the person’s name, date of birth and the dates and manufacturers of vaccine doses, all contained within a QR code that can be scanned. “One of the features of the QR code is that it is standardized and interoperable to work in any state. A resident of Virginia traveling to San Francisco can use the same SMART Health Card to prove vaccination status in California.” [3] Internationally, many countries are also adopting the SMART Health Card including Australia, Canada, and Japan among others.

We must ask ourselves if we want our world to turn into one checkpoint after another. Instead of showing one’s papers, we will be asked to scan smartphones to pass various checkpoints to enter buildings and move across borders. And what of the millions of citizens in the world who do not own a smartphone? What of those who are recognizing the harmful effects of smart phones and are opting for “dumb” phones instead? [4]

Will these now voluntary vaccine passes become a requirement in the future? Will schools, universities, private companies, even entire nations require them as a condition to study, work, reside, or visit? Will this be the end of medical privacy? Will these "smart" vaccine cards end freedom of movement as we know it? Perhaps more of us will realize that “smart” may be dumb if it results in loss of our privacy and freedom.

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