Vaccine Passports: The Future of QR Convenience

 

COVID-19 vaccine illustration by Ethan Williams.

Could getting the vaccine be the only answer to getting out of the house during the COVID-19 pandemic?  

Starting as early as June 1st, Chapman students, faculty, and staff who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing to access campus or take part in on-campus activities. For those who choose not to take the vaccine for medical, religious, or personal reasons, Chapman will be accommodating those students by providing a personal declination form for exceptions. Those who are not fully vaccinated, including those with exemptions, will have to increase mandatory COVID-19 testing- twice per week for faculty, staff, and students in order to maintain access to campus facilities. 

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the public health department has pointed to vaccines as the new way of getting back to normalcy. Currently, there are a total of three vaccines authorized and recommended in the United States to prevent COVID-19, the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and the Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen.

Every day more colleges and universities in the United States are requiring a COVID-19 vaccine before students return to campus this fall. Based on recent discussions and guidance from the CDC, The American College Health Association, and local health agencies, Chapman will require all students, faculty, and staff coming to campus this fall to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, or file a personal declination. According to the CDC data tracker, The state of California has already fully vaccinated over 14,158,881 people. 

Based on the CDC and CalOSHA guidance, all those accessing campuses are encouraged to wear face masks while outdoors, although it will no longer be enforced. Face coverings will continue to be required while inside a Chapman facility for all faculty, staff, and students. Chapman will protect the privacy of the campus community vaccination status but expect all Chapman community members returning to respect the health and safety of those around them and continue to engage in practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Chapman is planning to return to in-person instruction for the fall semester, with no options for virtual learning. This makes it gravely important that vaccinations are completed for the new academic year. At this time, all California residents age 16 and up are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Orange County offers vaccines and transportation by appointment and walk-in. A list of sites and hours of operation can be found at CovidVaccineFacts.com or by calling the OC COVID-19 hotline at (714)-834-2000. According to the Chapman resources for COID-19 vaccinations page, Chapman will have its own supply in the fall, allowing additional access to a vaccine through their Student Health Center.

Now that vaccinations are ramping up in the United States, and with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issuing thousands of new vaccination cards daily, mobile apps are working towards verifying travelers’ immunity to the novel COVID-19 virus with some already being used by many airlines. The vaccine passport is taking shape as a free app where you can upload your proof of vaccination as well as other necessary coronavirus or health testing. The vaccine passport will help digitalize individuals countries’ paper vaccinations documentation into internationally recognized passes for travel. This proof of vaccination status can also allow entry into events or businesses. The basic concept is you would have a QR code on your smartphone that you would flash to indicate your health status. 

In the wake of this new concept, many people have concerns about how their health status will be used and stored. There are also concerns of accessibility, making sure people of all ages and backgrounds are able to connect to their vaccination and important health credentials. Some people are hesitant to receive the vaccine and have concerns that their unvaccinated status could potentially prevent them from access to certain places. New York has already created its own digital pass while states like Texas and Florida have attempted to outlaw them. The state of California is effectively encouraging venues to require proof of vaccination, but the state has emphasized they won’t require them. Back in April, Orange County announced plans to launch a program for credentialing but was immediately met with backlash from Orange County residents. Orange County Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau said that the county isn’t requiring a vaccine passport, but the agency is planning to offer a digital vaccination record for residents who request it. 

Kate Robinson, freshman, Strategic & Corporate Communication is happy that the United States was able to develop multiple vaccines quickly and believes the drop in COVID-19 numbers is drastically dropping across the country because of the vaccines. 

Kate Robinson, freshman, Strategic & Corporate Communication touring Chapman.

Despite that, Robinson says, “I am a bit leery of it, however, due to the fact that they have been on the market for such a short period of time and bypassed all of the standard trials and experiments that every other vaccine goes through (this usually takes three to five years, but the COVID one was developed in just a few months, just to put it into perspective).  To get the vaccine right now, when we really don’t know too much about it, is scary, but I never have and never will judge anyone who does or doesn’t go through with it “ Robinson said. 

Robinson hasn’t gotten the vaccine herself for two reasons: first because of the low-risk COVID-19 itself poses on her. She believes she is extremely fortunate to be young and healthy, so even if she did contract COVID it would most likely equivalent to a cold or a mild virus, which is not something she feels the need to get vaccinated for. Secondly, is that vaccine manufacturers, under the law, are not held liable if something happens to a person after the shot. Robinson thinks the companies clearly don’t have money to lose, this makes her suspicious- wondering how much the manufacturers actually care about the people receiving it? Were numbers fudged and messages manipulated along the way in order to make us buy into the safety and effectiveness of it? She’s willing to bet so. 

Robinson says, “From my understanding, the vaccine passport is a way for businesses and other private companies to hopefully prove that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19.  To my knowledge, the Biden administration hasn’t spent much time speaking out about it.” 

Kate Robinson, freshman, Strategic & Corporate Communication paddle boarding with her family on the Salt River in Phoenix.

If the passport were to be implemented Robinson believes it would be a complete privacy violation. She believes why should someone else business know if she’s been vaccinated or not? She wouldn’t be able to attend functions, travel, or even go to school. “Some colleges have already required students to get it for fall in-person instruction, so it is scary to think that Chapman might do the same thing. Will this prevent me from being able to live in campus housing, play my sport, or even return to the classroom?” said Robinson. 

Shannon Coyle, a sophomore Applied Human Physiology major, vaguely knows what the vaccine passport is, and has a general idea of what it is, she just doesn’t know all the details of it. She feels pretty confident in the vaccine and trusts the research and time experts have put into it and is all for anything she can do to help ease the effects of the pandemic. “I got the Pfizer vaccine because it was being offered at the CVS close by with available appointments. It’s also what everyone in my family got which made me feel more at ease,” Coyle said. 

Shannon Coyle, sophomore Applied Human Physiology major holds her vaccination record card after receiving her first dose of the vaccine.

Coyle thinks the vaccine passport is a great idea to help kickstart the economy and get things resembling more normalcy and to show a picture of the vaccine card on our phone will be a lot more reasonable for most people. Carrying the physical card would be a lot harder and might get lost. Though Coyle thinks this is a good idea she doesn’t think people should be penalized due to a lack of access to the vaccine or other health reasons for not getting it.

 “For me personally, I know that the people involved in making the vaccine are experts at what they do and know a lot more than I do. I put my trust in these individuals and trust that the right steps were taken to ensure everyone’s safety to the best of their abilities. I got my second dose today and am a little scared I’ll feel super sick tomorrow but in terms of the actual vaccine, I feel pretty safe,” Coyle said.

Tayah Wozniak, Health Communication professor in Chapman’s School of Communication is grateful that the United States has multiple approved, safe, and effective vaccines available and accessible to combat COVID-19. Wozniak received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and will be fully vaccinated in the next few weeks. She signed up for her vaccine through the Othena app and received the Pfizer vaccine at Soka University. Choosing the location closest to her home out of convenience. 

Tayah Wozniak, Health Communication professor in Chapman’s School of Communication.

“Personally, I do not have any fears about the vaccines. With that being said, I have had many conversations with individuals who do have fears and concerns. It is going to be very important that health communication and public health practitioners research effective ways to message vaccine safety and efficacy to these populations directly,” said Wozniak. 

Since getting vaccinated Wozniak has been carrying around her vaccine card in her wallet and doesn’t think switching to a digital vaccine passport will affect her much. Despite not doing extensive research on the vaccine passport or its effects on the economy. However, she is aware of both benefits and barriers to a vaccine passport that will need to be considered if implemented. One of the perceived benefits includes the opportunity that the vaccine passport would provide a return to normalcy quicker. 

Hunter Neal, a senior business major, got the Moderna vaccine on April 4th. Neal also thinks the vaccine is beneficial to getting back to normal. He thinks the vaccine is really good for the economy and getting businesses back open. As far as the vaccine passport he is aware of what it is and thinks it may be tedious to show proof of vaccination but the pros outweigh the cons. 

“The vaccine is very new and could cause implications further down the line but since I’ve got the vaccine I will be able to freely and safely travel more often,” Neal said. 

Despite many people having differing opinions when it comes to getting vaccinated and using the vaccine passport over 35.1% of Americans have already been fully vaccinated and more colleges and universities are requiring you to be vaccinated to return to in-person instruction for the fall semester. Whether the vaccine passport will be implemented into our new norm of the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be revealed. 

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