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Vaccine passports are not a new concept but they're never without debate

Virus Ourtbreak Nevada
Posted at 8:22 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 21:24:52-04

Vaccine passports are getting a lot of attention as the country and world move into a post-pandemic reality.

Governments, businesses, and travelers are talking about it, but it's not without debate like all aspects of the pandemic.

The pandemic was politicized.

Vaccines are politicized, and now, so is the idea of a so-called vaccine passport which would be considered your proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

"People don't like to feel they're required to do something we have a strong streak as Americans not to be reined in by people telling us what to do that's stressful for people," said Dr. Sophia Albott.

She's a psychiatrist with the University of Minnesota Medical School.

It's her job to focus on traumatic experiences and their impact, including things like PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

"I think that one of the reasons that this got political has a lot to do with us being in this chronic stress survival mode," said Dr. Albott. "When people have something that threatens their day-to-day life, their ability to live their life the way they want to do our brain tends to simplify things in simple terms."

It's like one more extension of the pandemic that many people don't want to deal with.

As it turns out, vaccine passports are not a new concept, said Alan Kraut.

He says it's like "the epidemics of yellow fever in the late 18th century the epidemics of cholera in the 19th century."

Kraut is a distinguished professor of history at American University in Washington D.C.

He's currently teaching American medical history in public health and focusing on public reaction to epidemics.

Right now, his students are watching history write itself.

"I'm constantly pointing out to them that they're going through one of the most serious pandemics in history and certainly in the history of the United States," said Kraut. "And the things they're experiencing were experienced by other people in other eras of our history."

Kraut said the people had used vaccine passports before. They've needed them to travel before, and vaccines were debated dating back to the colonial days.

"George Washington insisted upon inoculating his troops the British debated and ultimately inoculated their troops in the American Revolution," Kraut said.

And he says, in 1905, the Supreme Court took up the case of Jacobson vs. Massachusetts when a clergyman refused a smallpox vaccination.

"The court ruled in favor of Massachusetts and the justice who wrote the majority opinion in a well-ordered society," Kraut said. "Society has an obligation to protect its citizens even at the expense of the individual rights of a particular citizen."

The clergyman, Kraut said, had to pay $5 for his refusal.

As for our present-day debates, Kraut says the only persuasion will move us forward.

"At some point, the vaccine and the mass vaccination of the American public will have its effect the same way it did with polio in the 1950s."

As for the larger question of whether vaccine passports should or shouldn't be required, Dr. Albott recommends taking the stress out of the situation rather than focusing on the debate.

"The more we can keep the emotional tone down and be respectful is going to enable us to have a better dialog about what the issues are and how it's affecting everyone."

One day, as they say, this will be a part of history.

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