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‘The only way forward’: Should Germany introduce a Covid-19 immunity passport?

'The only way forward': Should Germany introduce a Covid-19 immunity passport?
An already existing German 'Impfpass' (vaccine passport), with a stamp being given for the Moderna vaccine. Photo: DPA
The Local's readers weighed in on a survey about whether they'd like to see an 'immunity passport' in Germany, granting special travel and daily life privileges for those who are fully vaccinated. Here's the verdict.

Israelis, Swedes and Danes already have it: the vaccination passport. By June, the European Union also wants to introduce the so-called “green passport”, allowing anyone who can prove their immunity to Covid-19 travel freely throughout the EU.

READ ALSO: Could ‘health passports’ kickstart travel around Europe?

German politicians such as Health Minister Jens Spahn have called not only for greater travel freedoms for those who have received both of their jabs, but also greater ease in everyday life – for example, not having to take a coronavirus test before shopping, getting a haircut or even attending cultural events. 

How soon could such a passport be beneficial to Germans? After a sluggish start to its vaccine campaign, the Bundesrepublik on Thursday reached its highest number of daily vaccines – or 739,000, up from 564,000 the day before. In two states – Bremen and Saarland – over 20 percent of the population has received their first shots.

The Local surveyed our readers in March on what they think of an immunity passport, and if they’d be eager to make use of it themselves. In response to whether or not a Covid-19 vaccine passport or card is a good idea, 71.4 of respondents said yes, whereas 28.6 percent weren’t keen on the idea.

‘Happy to get out of issues when travelling’

Paritosh, who is from India and lives in Frankfurt, said he’s often on a plane “and would be happy to get out of regular issues when travelling,” such as having to go into quarantine when reaching his destination. Health Minister Spahn proposed in April that those with the vaccine be exempt from the requirement.

Paritosch thinks that such a passport would “force” other travellers, some who might be normally sceptical of a vaccine, to get a jab to avoid hassles upon landing.

Anna, a Scandinavian woman living in Bavaria, pointed out that vaccination against several diseases is already required to enter many countries, and that it should not be any different for Covid-19. “People need to be able to travel and visit relatives, and the tourism sector desperately needs it.”

Chris, an American in Bavaria, was eager to dodge quarantine requirements: “If I choose to travel this summer, authorities in various countries may want proof of vaccination, or a negative Covid test, or failing both of those they may insist upon a long quarantine.”

Sahil, a Malaysian living in Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, put it simply: “If it eases travel and lets me enjoy the summer, it’s a win-win.”

READ ALSO: How freely will people be able to travel to and from Germany this summer?

An airplane takes off in Berlin in November. Photo: DPA

‘The only way forward’

Some readers felt such a passport would help them carry out – or regain – their jobs again.

“I’m a DJ and I’ve lost all my income for a year and this is one of the only way’s forward before 2022,” said Eric Cloutier, an American in Berlin-Kreuzberg.

“I work with American tourists. Having proof would give them more confidence,” said Jolyon Jamieson, a Brit living in Breisach along the German-French border.

Others were eager to gain social benefits from showing an immunity card. Ali C, a Brit living in Berlin, felt that having an immunity passport could allow him to finally travel home to visit friends and family. 

“I’ve already been particularly isolated due to being on my own throughout in a country others than my own,” he said.

“The sooner we start returning to normal the better. I know I will probably get vaccinated last, but that shouldn’t stop other people from resuming their lives,” said Peter, who lives in Berlin and is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Others thought it would be a transparent way to tell who’s been vaccinated or not – and hence feel more secure in their social circles.

“Better to know who has or has not had a vaccination, knowing that you are safer in the company of those who have vaccinated,” said Chris, who comes from Leeds, and lives in Neufahrn Bei Freising.

“It promotes vaccination, making everyone safer. It also proves you did your part in keeping everyone safe, which should be rewarded. Dr. Nikita Medvedev, who lives Hamburg and comes from Russia.

‘Inequality class differentiation’

In January, the German Ethics Council warned against giving “special privileges” to those who have been vaccinating, saying that it considers it wrong to end restrictions for people who are vaccinated sooner than others. 

Several Local readers also felt that a special pass to avoid restrictions – especially if introduced before the majority of the population has a chance to get their jabs – could be too divisive between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

“It creates inequality class differentiation which will cause social problems. Individuals should have a choice by means of being safe but not forced to take the vaccination,” said Craig in Heidelberg and originally from South Africa. 

Cecilia, a French woman living in Berlin, stressed that such a passport should be free so not to create a deeper inequalities.

“I would not get it if it was generated by pharma groups or any private company,” she said. 

Jaana, who lives in Bavaria and is originally from Finland, said “Early roll-out of immunity cards would essentially create a privileged class of people (mainly elderly) and this is guaranteed to cause unrest as younger people will see this as politicians pandering to their largest voting block.”

“At this point, it would not be fair. If we all had the opportunity to be vaccinated, then this would be equitable. As it stands, it is discriminatory.” said Lyle, an American living in Dresden. 

Some readers said that an immunity passport would generate economic benefits – even if it also created a divide between those who could return to normality and those siphoned to the sidelines.

Sadat, who’s originally from Bangladesh and lives in Leipzig, felt that a vaccine passport “will create discrimination but economic revival is more urgent than just being fair”.

If he received such a passport after getting a jab, he said, he would use the opportunity to travel home, where he has not been in three years due to the pandemic.

READ ALSO: ‘A trip home is impossible’: How foreign residents in Germany plan to celebrate Christmas

But can vaccinated people spread the virus?

Other readers said that it’s still not clear if vaccinated people can spread the virus, and as a result more people with immunity passports could actually lead to greater transmission. 

“Normality should only be restored once the danger of overloading the health services has disappeared,” said Jason, a Brit living in Berlin. 

“Those who are vaccinated should still be contributing to this effort (staying home, keeping distance, wearing masks…). There is uncertainty around if a vaccinated person can still spread the virus (and its mutations).”

A Pfizer-Biontech covid-19 vaccine. Chris Jackson/AFP

Marjan, who comes from Macedonia and lives in Frankfurt, said: “There is no long-term validation of the safety first of all of the vaccines, especially for the young population, after come the rest of the arguments…such as efficacy over not spreading the virus etc.”

READ ALSO: ‘I finally might be able to go home’: What it’s like to be offered the Covid vaccine in Germany

Others were worried about their very personal private medical information becoming public.

“My medical record is something which only my doctors and I should have access to,” said one reader in Berlin.

Demetris from Cyprus, who lives in Potsdam, added that: “Vaccination is, at the end of the day, a medical act. Medical history is a highly sensitive private information that we are only asked to disclose to very specific people in very specific circumstances. 

Making it an ID that every shop clerk will check goes against every data protection notion.”

Distracting from other priorities

Other readers lamented the slow vaccine rollout in Germany and the EU, and said that the main priority right now should be speeding up the pace of vaccinations. 

Jessica in Berlin said: “There is only one important priority that the government needs to focus on – vaccinate everyone who is willing, quickly.”

Luci, a South African in Berlin, would be for a passport “once we all had the chance to get vaccinated.” 

Others said having a new passport just for Covid-19 would be redundant, and called for Covid-19 to be added to the already existing Impfausweis (vaccination card), which lists all injections a person has received in their life.

“Why do we need something else?” asked Sam, a Brit living in Hanover. 

‘’Vaccine proof has previously been used for other diseases. Why not COVID-19 too?’ said Thomas Boon, originally from Essex and living in Frankfurt. 

However, he felt that there needs to be a coordinated international plan as “if every country does their own thing, they could become worthless in other countries.”  

However, other readers felt there should be an immunisation pass precisely because it follows in line with what’s been done before. 

“Our doctors already provide us with general immunisation certificates for school, etc, so this could be an extension of that but officially recognised across all of the EU,” said Shannon, a New Zealander living in Dormagen. 

“I cannot travel to Tanzania without Yellow Fever vaccination,” said Kathryn, an American living in Nuremberg. 

“This is how it is to protect the public and keep society working,”


Member comments

  1. No absolutely not. Its divisive and discriminatory. Do the authorities ask for TB vaccination certificates for people coming from countries where there is a lot of TB and thats just one example and it kills 1.5 million people every year. All this eagerness to have a gene therapy jab when the testing wont finish until 2023 and there are many expert dissenting voices which are not allowed to be heard and are silenced. After their voices dont fit the narrative.

    1. Despite you being completely wrong about what the mRNA vaccine does and how it works and how complete testing is, you are correct. Those who don’t want to be vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine, they can choose the other available vaccines AZ and J&J, neither of which is an mRNA vaccine, but a more traditional form of vaccine. While not as effective, they do provide protection from disease or at a minimum, severe COVID disease. If you don’t want any vaccine, feel free to keep your children home for lessons and enjoy driving everywhere or constantly pay for a produce negative COVID tests to do much of anything. Like it or not, it is the future. I hope they do offer these passports. I’d love to see my mother again and currently, despite being 100% vaccinated, she is not permitted to come to Germany to visit me. I’d love to see her before she dies of old age. If these passports and high vaccination rates are the only way to get COVID under control (historically true for viruses), then I’m all for it.

  2. Denise Graham Hill has clearly never been a South African trying to get a holiday visa for the UK.
    When I went through that process – many, many, many years ago – I had to get lung x-rays and a medical certificate to prove I didn’t have TB, and carry them with me in case I was asked for them at passport control.
    When I’ve travelled to yellow-fever infested areas of Africa, I’ve had to show my yellow-fever vaccination certificate to get back into South Africa. Why is this so different?

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