As more Americans get vaccinated, there is increasing talk of “vaccine passports.” There are strong emotional reactions to this idea, positive and negative, but my attempt at a more analytical view leads me to a conclusion that is not entirely satisfying (even to me): America should work to develop vaccine passports but never actually require them.
First, I am not impressed by the criticisms that vaccine passports will create an unfair two-tier society. Covid-19 already has done that. Not only are the 500,000 dead already in a highly disadvantageous “tier,” but the U.S. has been divided between those who can work at home — often higher earners — and those who cannot. If a vaccine passport system can help clean up this mess and accelerate recovery, it is likely to increase fairness on average.