Vaccine “Passport” Debate

As more people around the world become vaccinated against COVID-19, the desire to travel for work and leisure is increasing.  And after a year and a half of rolling lockdowns and border closures around the world, governments are looking for ways to encourage the economic resurgence of the travel industry and tourism, while balancing the need to keep the spread of COVID-19 minimal.  The use of digital pass systems, or Covid “passports”, to show proof of vaccination, may or may not be the answer.

In the United States, President Biden has stated that he will not mandate a federal system of Covid “passports”.  Some states, like Florida and Texas, are passing legislation banning the use of Covid vaccination “passports”; others places, like New York and Las Vegas, Nevada, already have digital vaccination pass systems in place to reopen for conventions, or to market some resorts as safer than others.  Internationally, Israel, with the highest population percentage of vaccinated people, uses the Green Pass, which enables people to frequent places like gyms and concerts; the Israeli government decided the Green Pass was also a good incentive for people to get vaccinated if they want to enjoy more public spaces.  Great Britain and the European Union are also exploring the use of digital passes so that people can travel more freely across their borders.

The World Health Organization and many bioethicists caution that vaccine “passports” will create greater economic and social inequities as areas with more accessibility to vaccines begin to open and require vaccine “passports” for travel, while parts of the world without access to vaccines or technology will remain stagnant.  There are also privacy concerns that the companies which create these digital “passport” apps may not always be able to protect this important health information.

This week’s current event explores the idea of COVID-19 vaccine “passports” as well as the arguments for and against their usage.  You could use these resources to create a Structured Academic Controversy to dive into the issue from economic, social, and bioethical perspectives.  And don’t forget to sign up at our We The Teachers Educator Resource Community for more ideas of how to use our Current Events and other programs in your classroom! 


Essential Questions:

  • What legal issues are at the center of requiring Covid vaccinations and vaccine “passports” in the United States?
  • What is the Israeli government’s stance on vaccination and its vaccine pass system?  Would that work in the United States, why or why not?
  • What are the risks of using a vaccine passport app on your smartphone?
  • Why do many bioethicists caution against the use of vaccine pass systems?  What are their specific arguments?
  • Do the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccine pass outweigh the possible negative outcomes? Why or why not?





The Reality of Vaccine Passports



Recent Articles:

The Constitution Requires the U.S. to Offer Vaccine Passports, Slate, May 4, 2021

Could a vaccine passport soon be your ticket to a quarantine-free vacation? CNBC, May 4, 2021

Sports stadiums asking fans for their “vaccine passports”, CBS News, May 4, 2021

Global Survey: Huge Support For Vaccine Passports — But What About In The U.S.? Forbes, May 3, 2021

What are COVID vaccination passports and should they be used? The Seattle Times, April 23, 2021

“Vaccine Passports”: COVID-19 Protection or Discrimination Against BIPOC and the Poor? Boston University School of Public Health, April 15, 2021

Majority of Oregonians surveyed support ‘immunity passports’ in response to COVID-19, KPIC 4, April 13, 2021

Can the Government Force You to Get COVID-19 Vaccine? Questions Surround Vaccine Passports, Newsweek, April 6, 2021

Recent Editorials:

The risks of Covid ‘vaccine passports’ are scarier than you might think, MSNBC, April 23, 2021

Vaccine passports — A technical, not an ideological issue, CNN, April 20, 2021

Articles for Younger Students:

Vaccine passport: What is it and why are people talking about it? BBC Newsround, April 4, 2021

Lesson Plans:

What ‘vaccine passports’ say about global equity, PBS Newshour Extra

What are vaccine passports and how might they work? C-Span Classroom


Resources for using Political Cartoons in the Classroom: 


Lesson Plans regarding Media & News Literacy (general):

Media Literacy Resources – Newseum

News & Media Literacy Lessons – Common Sense

Media Misinformation, Viral Deception, and “Fake News” – University of Wyoming

Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News – New York Times Lessons