The Global Guinea Pig: Airlines to Discriminate Based on Your Medical Status

By Micha Gartz

The Covid pandemic and precautions has undoubtedly been stressful for everyone — albeit in different ways. Fortunately, our brave leaders have been there to guide us through. And we now see the light at the end of our dark, unpredictably windy tunnel: the heralded end to all our woes — vaccines — will soon be here!

President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed has been accompanied by debate concerning mandatory vaccination. At the height of pandemic-induced fear, politicians spoke positively of mandatory vaccination. That debate, and temptation to exercise even more power over our lives, has seemingly quieted down as public support wanes.

The most recent Pew Research Center survey found that, between May and September, the percentage of US adults who would ‘definitely’ get the vaccine if it were available today decreased from 41% to 21%, while those who would ‘probably’ get it remained stable at 30%, and those who are unwilling or reluctant to get the vaccine increased from 27% to 49%.

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Between July and September Canadian support decreased from 72% to 61%, with 82% indicating they would wait for reports on vaccine efficacy and side effects before taking it. Reluctance for mandatory vaccine uptake based on concerns vaccine development has been rushed, or that vaccines may carry side effects, are shared across the world as their reality becomes more imminent.

But now it may not be the state that forces that decision upon you.

One airline is reportedly already looking at making the Covid vaccine mandatory for travel. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce remarked:

We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft.

According to the NY Post, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is looking at requiring travellers to hold a “digital health pass.” This “immunity passport” would integrate information concerning passengers’ virus test results and inoculation status across airlines, testing labs, governments.

The IATA only boasts 290 member airlines (including Qantas) across 120 countries. But don’t worry, IATA member airlines make up just 82% of world air traffic — so there are plenty of alternative airlines to choose from if you prefer not to have your medical records shared (or get vaccinated).

Just kidding.

Here’s a list of airlines who are members of IATA; you might recognize some of them: see PDF.

You can either wave bon voyage to your next post-Covid holiday, or say goodbye to privacy rights over your own medical records. And if you’re an airline employee, well, let’s just say your decision not to vaccinate may lead your continued employment to come into question.

Employers’ right to request you get vaccinated against the flu has already been granted through the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, although NPR notes, “Employees have the right to request medical or religious exemptions under federal anti-discrimination laws.”

But why stop with just the flu? Or Covid?

After all, once the precedent is set, it could be applied to a whole host of other communicable diseases. And once digital health pass records are shared, you can’t necessarily unshare them. We don’t yet know how long those records will be stored, the level of security to prevent data breaches, or their sale to third parties.

Future politicians may be tempted to deny potential immigrant groups entry under the guise of a “public health threat.” Digital health passes could be extended to include: influenza, hepatitis, measles, tuberculosis, Zika, HIV and STDs.

Imagine, you could have some “blacklisted” virus or disease and not be allowed to travel to visit your family, go to a wedding, attend a funeral or start a new job. Indeed, this could prove a valuable source of support from pharmaceutical lobbyists, who stand to benefit immensely from requiring immunization before you can travel for any of these things.

And all because, during our trip down Covid-hysteria highway, we threw waivers and personal responsibility out the window.


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