By Chloe Reichel
States, employers, retailers, and other industries are now grappling with how to update mask policies in light of recent CDC guidance, which suggests vaccinated individuals may remove their face coverings indoors.
But without a system in place to discern who has been vaccinated, the guidance poses a major risk: unvaccinated individuals, who can still contract and spread the virus, may also opt to go maskless.
COVID-19 digital health passes, often called vaccine passports, may prove useful as a tool to relax mask policies. Vaccine passports can help to verify whether individuals may safely enter a space without a face covering.
Their ethical implementation, however, is contingent upon a number of factors: first and foremost, equitable access to vaccines. Other considerations include minimizing distrust, accessibility, risks of discrimination, and privacy protections.
For policy makers considering the implementation of COVID-19 vaccine credentialing programs, the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University have developed a road map highlighting key considerations for their ethical design.
This post provides a summary of key considerations and responsive policy recommendations presented in the paper to guide more equitable implementation of vaccine passports and to minimize distrust.