Vaccination passport and ethical issues

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While some European countries have already implemented a vaccination passport, Canada is considering following suit very soon. However, the initiative raises many questions ...

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While some European countries have already implemented a vaccine passport, Canada is still in the process of thinking regarding this measure.

A complex issue from an ethical point of view, the creation of a vaccination passport divides the population. Some cry out against wall-to-wall injustice and the lack of respect for rights and freedoms, while others find it reasonable and justified to use vaccine evidence in different social, cultural or tourist contexts.

What is a vaccination passport?

From the outset, let's define what a vaccination passport is. It is in fact proof of immunization against a disease, such as COVID-19, to allow its holders to access certain activities that were previously prohibited for health reasons. With proof (in the form of a QR code, for example) that we have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, we could then start traveling again, going to see shows in large crowds, to bring in our friends and family in our home… In short, to live as we did before the pandemic.

Rights and freedoms infringed?

We are all at the mercy of the pace of vaccination. It is a collective effort that allows some to be immunized before others. In this context, it is normal that the age groups having already received their two doses of vaccine can benefit from all the advantages which are attached to it before others. Then there are those who refuse to be vaccinated (by choice and by right) and who want to benefit from the same advantages (travel, for example) as those who have been vaccinated. What to do in the face of this ethical dilemma?

Jocelyn Maclure, ethicist specializing in science and technology interviewed by Rad's team, thinks that people who refuse the vaccine will have to face the consequences of their actions and will be prohibited from certain activities if a vaccination passport is introduced in Canada. This expert then speaks of a punitive approach that relies on individual responsibility, a very fragile situation according to him. Do we want to live in a society where people have different rights based on a biological characteristic (vaccination status)? The ethicist sees the vaccine passport rather as a temporary solution, until collective immunity is achieved.

So, the more people who adhere to the vaccine, the more likely it is to achieve collective immunity quickly, and the less we will need a vaccine passport over a long period ...

To help you form an opinion on the subject, watch Rad's capsule mentioned above in which Mr. Maclure answers five relevant questions about the vaccination passport:


In addition

The role of vaccines

Vaccines are used to protect people by preventing them from developing certain potentially dangerous diseases. During vaccination, the bacteria or attenuated virus is introduced into the body. An attenuated infectious agent is harmless to our health since it cannot cause disease. This is where the immune system kicks in by making antibodies to fight off the bacteria or virus in question. The body therefore trains itself to fight the enemy and if it encounters it for real, it will be protected from it and will not fall ill!

The antibodies that have been developed with the vaccine may be effective against several strains of the same virus at the same time. For example, in the case of influenza, the vaccine contains three different strains (influenza type B, H1N1 and H3N2), which all circulate at the same time, and therefore may be effective against either of these influenza. In 2020, we are talking about an efficacy of 69% for influenza type B, 44% for H1N1 and 62% against H3N2. Overall, this vaccine protects up to 58%.

The manufacture of vaccines

The manufacture of vaccines makes it possible to obtain viruses or bacteria which have lost their pathogenicity, but which have retained their characteristics. Once injected, the vaccine allows the body to produce specific antibodies without developing the disease. To begin manufacturing a vaccine, researchers perform a massive cell culture of the bacteria or virus in question. Then, the collected cells must be heated and treated with chemicals in order to make them harmless.

There are two main processes in vaccine design: live (attenuated) vaccines and inert (inactivated) vaccines. Live or attenuated vaccines, such as those against measles, mumps and rubella require an infectious agent that is still alive, but which has lost its power to infect due to chemical treatments. Other vaccines, like rabies, are created by suppressing infectious agents living in viruses. Or as with tetanus, only a harmless part of the bacteria is used. These are called inert or inactivated vaccines.

The challenge

Are students for or against the vaccine passport? Why or why not? They will be asked to answer this question, which raises ethical issues, using the digital tool of their choice. Whether it's a video clip, audio recording or blog post, they will have to give their point of view on this divisive issue.



Disciplines and levels targeted

– Ethics and religious culture (1st and 2nd cycles of secondary school)

  • Reflect on ethical questions
    • Several possible themes: freedom, autonomy, justice

– Science and technology (secondary 3)

  • Medical technologies: vaccines
  • Technological universe (biotechnology)
  • Living universe (immune system)

Targeted dimensions of digital competence

  • Producing content with digital
  • Developing and mobilizing information literacy
  • Developing critical thinking with regard to the use of digital technology
  • Harnessing the potential of digital technology for learning

Suggested digital tools

  • Edpuzzle
  • LearningApps
  • Flipgrid

Educational intention of the guide

  • The following activities will allow students to deepen their knowledge of vaccines and their uses around the world.

Objectives of the activities

  • Know the stages of manufacturing a vaccine.
  • Learn a specialized lexicon related to vaccines.
  • Give your point of view on vaccination.

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