Immunity Passports and the Perils of Conferring Coronavirus Status

Immunity passports, which would verify whether someone has been infected with covid-19, could help open up travel, but their deployment raises concerns.

By Sue Halpern: “The deployment of immunity passports raises a number of logistical and ethical concerns. In the United States, testing could become a barrier to getting a pass: diagnostic testing has been limited, and serology tests, which measure covid-19 antibodies, are still being developed. Even if testing were universally available, people without antibodies will be shut out from the activities of everyday life, creating a divided landscape of antibody haves and have-nots. “The reality is that access to society with [this kind of] certification will likely reflect existing systemic biases, corruption, and discrimination in the system,” Alexandra Phelan, an assistant professor in infectious diseases and law at Georgetown University, told me. And, if testing positive for covid-19 antibodies becomes a prerequisite for being able to work, there may be a perverse incentive for people to put themselves in the path of the virus. “This would not be like bringing your kids to chicken-pox parties,” Phelan said. “Individuals who have economic pressures to get back to work may already be in socioeconomically vulnerable positions, and we know that these are the people who are disproportionately more likely to get more severely ill.”

Source: The New Yorker