Post-vaccination privileges: has the time arrived?

The debate continues over whether those who have had the Covid-19 vaccine should be able to return to normal life more swiftly, as is being planned in Denmark and Sweden. Europe's press weighs up the pros and the cons.

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Polityka (PL) /

Workers' rights at risk

The example of Israel highlights the legal problems that such privileges entail, Polityka warns:

“The government in Israel has a problem particularly when it comes to guaranteeing workers' rights. Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri admitted that under certain circumstances employers can demand that their employees be vaccinated. There is also a problem with teachers: one in four teachers refuses to be vaccinated, thus posing a potential threat to other staff members and students who cannot be vaccinated. There is currently a debate in Israel about whether school staff can be forced to be vaccinated. Some local governments want to explicitly ban teachers who have not received the jab from entering school premises.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Only in exceptional cases

Privileges are justifiable under strict conditions, law professor Andrea Büchler and innovation ethicist Jean-Daniel Strub argue in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“Unequal treatment on the basis of vaccination status can only be justified if the vaccines are used not only to protect individuals, but also to effectively limit the transmission of the virus. And it can only come into effect when it is clear that everyone who wants to be vaccinated will have access to the vaccine. ... In certain cases and for a limited period only, however, it can be legitimate to make access to particular activities contingent on providing proof of vaccination. But the only way to implement this is if the measures that ensure the protection of everyone concerned are no less drastic. ... But unequal access to services should certainly remain the exception.”

Tageblatt (LU) /

The decision has already been made

The pressure to open things up for people who have had the vaccine will increase, Tageblatt predicts:

“The tourist industry in particular is pondering what will slow down its business most in the medium term: the government's restrictions or the customers' concerns about their health. The loudest arguments concern the former but the latter will probably sway the silent majority. A possible solution is to enhance confidence by allowing only those who have been vaccinated to cross borders, go to the cinema or stay in hotels. ... Even today, passengers who can prove that they have survived Covid-19 in the last three months are allowed to travel to Luxembourg via the airports without any problems. All other travellers are having swabs inserted deep into their throats. It's only logical that those who have had the vaccine should join the ranks of the privileged tomorrow.”

Krónika (RO) /

Discrimination debate a waste of time

Vaccination passports are the next logical step in the fight against the crisis and will help everyone, Krónika argues:

“Just think of how much tax money the state is spending on vaccination programmes while the economy pays through the nose for restrictions that are eating away at our short-term future. Every vaccination brings us closer to overcoming the economic crisis, but only if those who have already been immunised return to a nearly normal way of life as soon as possible. Deliberating on whether it constitutes discrimination is nothing but a harmful waste of time right now.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Don't let businesses decide

The state should not cede control on relaxing restrictions for people who have received the vaccine, Der Standard believes:

“Of course there's plenty of clout to the argument that we must avoid a a two-class society of vaccine haves and have-nots. But this still applies if two classes emerge because businesses will only admit, transport or entertain people who have been vaccinated. The state cannot allow business to make this kind of decision. First of all, it has to provide fast, free and easy access to vaccines and secondly, it has to put regulations in place to slowly but surely give citizens their freedom back.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Passports could exacerbate inequality

The Irish Times is deeply perturbed:

“The uneven global availability of vaccines to date has been a shameful reflection of structural inequalities. It cannot be that the rich would be allowed to go on holidays and enjoy a quasi-normal life while those in poor countries are forced to stay put and, in many cases, continue to battle a disease for which they have no protection. Within countries, the structure of rollout schemes, which prioritise older citizens, could result in unfair discrimination against younger people, many of whom have suffered from loss of education and social development during the pandemic.”

Le Point (FR) /

Reality will overtake debate

Several French ministers have spoken out against vaccination passports. This is an antiquated stance that would isolate France, Le Point criticises:

“Rejecting vaccination passports risks looking like a rearguard action. ... In fact, to deny a freer, richer and more mobile life to the unfortunate vaccination candidates would almost be to punish them twice. Even in these times of deprivation there is the risk that reality could overtake ethical concerns. After all, France is not alone in the world, and Europe is divided on the issue. In the north, Sweden and Denmark plan to introduce a 'coronavirus passport' in order to resume activities that have been restricted for the past year. ... In the South, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus have not forgotten the role tourism plays in their economies.”