It is becoming increasingly clear that once you have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, you have very little chance of either getting sick from it or spreading it to someone else. This is especially true after two doses of an mRNA vaccine, either the Pfizer or Moderna versions.
There is an almost palpable sense of freedom two weeks after the second dose, but I also believe that the science of diminished risk should translate directly into tangible freedoms that might entice others who are still hesitant to take the vaccine.
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The term “passport” has been used, though this could be an unfortunate term, implying that unless you have taken the vaccine you may be excluded from something the vaccine allows you to do.
This concept has created a firestorm of response. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida issued an executive order this month that bans state and local government from issuing proof of vaccination while at the same time prohibiting governments and businesses from demanding this proof in order to participate "in everyday life."
Grandstanding instead of public health
Though I am a fan of the governor’s handling of many aspects of the pandemic, including his tireless efforts to try to safeguard nursing homes and reopen schools and businesses, I believe that this latest move is more in line with political grandstanding than public health.
Many colleges and K-12 schools already require vaccination records from students. And as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes widely available, an increasing number of colleges and universities say they'll require students to be vaccinated.
Certainly there is no ethical problem with allowing a government to issue proof of vaccination against COVID-19. In fact, it might help to diminish the fraudulent black marketeering of fake vaccine documents.
And as far as using these documents to gain entrance somewhere, consider that many sports venues and airports, including in Florida, already rely on a negative rapid or PCR test to allow admission. Actually, a completed COVID-19 immunization is a far more accurate predictor of being free of the virus than a test, which could be insensitive or administered during the wrong window (after exposure but before there is enough virus to be detected).
Keep in mind that in Israel, the "green pass" has been a useful tool for reopening society. It gets you into gyms and stores and restaurants, and opens the door to travel. It has loosened the limits of daily life and lifted the spirits of the entire country. At the same time, case numbers have plummeted to about 300 a day.
Here in the United States, we have a long proud history of utilizing our successful vaccines to help us safely visit foreign lands. These vaccines include those for hepatitis, typhoid, polio and yellow fever. We should certainly be allowed to add the highly effective COVID-19 vaccines to this list.
I also believe that we should be able to use “proof of immunity” to gain entrance to anywhere that testing would otherwise be required, including for travel. A person who has recovered from COVID-19 could legitimately argue that they have protective immunity for several months, though we don’t yet know the exact antibody level above which this immunity is certain. Nevertheless, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged that “current evidence suggests that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection is low in the months after initial infection,” this group can safely delay vaccination while supply is limited.
Access to normal life
The CDC has also decided that those who have tested antibody positive for three months don’t generally need to quarantine following an exposure. I believe this also means this group should have increased access to normal life once scientists have developed the lab tests to provide proof of their immunity.
A vaccine passport violates no patient privacy laws. But rather than call it a passport, perhaps a term like vaccine "certificate or "ticket" would be more accurate and wouldn’t be as easily politicized.
Taming the 4th COVID surge: Delay second shots and get first vaccine doses into arms ASAP.
No matter what you call it, because of how dangerous and easily transmissible this virus can be, we all have the right to know what our public risk is. And if this risk is made much lower because of vaccination or prior disease, it should earn us more freedom from restriction. Showing our vaccine certificate should be a matter of personal choice, just as being tested for COVID-19 is.
At the same time, business owners are wise to feel more reassured if they know we are immune. If they decide to allow us entry into their movie theater or restaurant or gym as a result, this is their right, too.
Dr. Marc Siegel, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors and a Fox News medical correspondent, is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Health. His latest book, "COVID: The Politics of Fear and the Power of Science," was published last fall. Follow him on Twitter: @DrMarcSiegel
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID vaccine certificates are tickets for return trip to normal life