The vaccine references of the United States the debate is becoming more and more polarized day by day. On the one hand, Democratic strongholds like New York are expanding the use of vaccine applications to make them necessary for people to access everything from sporting events and performing arts venues at Restaurants and desks. On the other hand, over half a dozen Republican-led states banned the technology. Some even have records of vaccines on paper prohibited as a means of access. While the public is right to oppose invasive and downright frightening new vaccine applications, the media should not confuse the technology with traditional immunization registries, especially for schools.
Just this week Columbia and NYU became two of the last universities to make the common sense decision to require a single proof of immunization status before returning to class. This may seem surprising from someone who warned last month that “Vaccine applications … can divide us further”, but it shouldn’t be.
There is a world of difference between single registration and the new wave of vaccine monitoring apps. Traditional school vaccine registries are unique. Students provide paper or electronic proof of vaccination at the start of the year, they are allowed to register, and that’s it. Tracking stops.
In contrast, vaccine applications such as New York Excelsior Pass act like a virtual bouncer, a check you must pass every time you enter a room. These scans create a new essential geolocation tracking network, building a map of our most intimate moments. And unlike the decades old vaccine registries that have helped schools tackle past pandemics, vaccine applications are launched with no evidence of their effectiveness and many reasons to be skeptical.
Once again, Big Tech seeks to present itself as the solution to our pandemic problems. And again, they offer us selling points instead of solutions. At the start of the pandemic, we were promised that exposure notification apps would protect us. After months of promotion and millions in development, the apps failed. In many communities, these contact tracing apps are now half-forgotten relics of the pre-vaccine world.
Tellingly, even though New York State is quick to focus on Excelsior Pass, it refuses to release reports on its latest tech effort, the Covid Alert NY contact tracing app. After initially bombarding the public with download and usage figures every few days, touting its “success,” it has been months since the state even mentioned the campaign.
Given the technology’s track record, it would be easy to conclude that all vaccine tracking is pointless, but that would push the argument too far. Covid-19 is spreading much faster on college campuses, far exceeding comparable communities. A vaccinated student body is essential for resuming lessons in person safely. In addition, vaccine registration is also fully consistent with pre-pandemic practice.
Unlike new invasive vaccine applications, registries are part of the status quo. For schools, Covid-19 will be just one of the many diseases that students need to be vaccinated against. Universities often need protection against mumps, measles, tetanus and other easily preventable diseases.
This story is the reason why commands like the recent executive order of Texas Governor Greg Abbott are so worrying. Abbott turned vaccine credentials into red meat for its base, banning any evidence of Covid-19 vaccination to enter sites receiving state funding, which includes just about all schools. But there is no doubt that requiring paper proof of vaccination for school records works. Abbott has draped himself in the rhetoric of freedom, but we know vaccine registration is constitutional. There is a 99-year Supreme Court ruling meeting a vaccine requirement – from Texas, ironically.
Many have referred to case law to defend the expansion of the registry model in new Covid applications, but the constitutional concerns are quite different. Placing a vaccine bouncer at the door of shops, restaurants and public spaces is likely to exclude BIPOC and immigrant communities from public spaces. We must not install surveillance systems that ignore the ingrained inequality and racism that have defined our health care system throughout this pandemic, and for generations before, leaving marginalized communities with less access to health. vaccine and Covid testing. While NYU, Columbia, and many other schools that require vaccination have the ability to provide the vaccine to all students, your local supermarket does not. Requiring applications without providing the vaccine will amplify the medical inequity into a new barrier to public life. We will also see the seniors who have struggled to navigate the Covid-19 vaccine websites potentially cut off from their community.