Fri | Apr 16, 2021

Vaccination ‘passports’ may open society, but inequity looms

Published:Friday | February 26, 2021 | 9:25 AM
A man presents his "green passport," proof that he is vaccinated against the coronavirus, on opening night at the Khan Theater for a performance where all guests were required to show proof of vaccination or full recovery from the virus in Jerusalem, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Violet light bathed the club stage as 300 people, masked and socially distanced, erupted in gentle applause.

For the first time since the pandemic began, Israeli musician Aviv Geffen stepped to his electric piano and began to play for an audience seated right in front of him.

“A miracle is happening here tonight,” Geffen told the crowd.

Still, the reanimating experience Monday night above a shopping mall north of Tel Aviv night was not accessible to everyone.

Only people displaying a “green passport” that proved they had been vaccinated or had recovered from COVID-19 could get in.

The highly controlled concert offered a glimpse of a future that many are longing for after months of COVID-19 restrictions.

Governments say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel, entertainment, and other social gatherings in a post-pandemic world.

But it also raises the prospect of further dividing the world along the lines of wealth and vaccine access, creating ethical and logistical issues that have alarmed decision-makers around the world.

Other governments are watching Israel churn through the world’s fastest vaccination programme and grapple with the ethics of using the shots as diplomatic currency and power.

Inside Israel, green passports or badges obtained through an app is the coin of the realm.

The country recently reached agreements with Greece and Cyprus to recognise each other’s green badges, and more such tourism-boosting accords are expected.

Anyone unwilling or unable to get the jabs that confer immunity will be “left behind,” said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein.

“It’s really the only way forward at the moment,” Geffen said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The checks at the club’s doors, which admitted only those who could prove they are fully vaccinated, allowed at least a semblance of normality.

“People can’t live their lives in the new world without them,” he said.

“We must take the vaccines. We must.”

The vaccine is not available to everyone in the world, whether due to supply or cost.

And some people don’t want it, for religious or other reasons.

In Israel, a country of 9.3 million people, only about half the adult population has received the required two doses.

There is new pressure from the government to encourage vaccinations. Israeli lawmakers on Wednesday passed a law allowing the Health Ministry to disclose information on people who have yet to be vaccinated.

Under the policy, names can be released to the ministries of education, labour, social affairs, and social services, as well as local governments, “with the purpose of allowing these bodies to encourage people to get vaccinated.”

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