On November 1, the streets began to regain their vitality. CUK campus is being filled again with students, and the downtown have been full of lights again even after 10 o’clock. This is because coexisting with COVID-19 has begun since November. Also, the government has started to implement the “Vaccine Pass” as part of its to plan of returning to normal life. As the opinions that the vaccine pass has discriminatory factors have emerged, arguments for and against it continues.
The Vaccine Pass means a certificate that allows fully vaccinated people and people who test negative for COVID-19 to be able to use multi-use facilities. The vaccine pass mentioned so far includes expanding private meetings from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. and the level of capacity in the public facilities. It is going to be temporarily operated within the operation period of coexisting with COVID-19, and will not be permanent.
The reason the government needs to introduce the Vaccine Pass is not only to prevent the accumulating damage to the self-employed as the social distancing period had been extended, but also to promote vaccination rates of people. Son Young-rae, a senior epidemiological strategist at the Central Disaster Management Headquarters of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, said at a briefing on October 29, “These restrictions can be obliged to cause some inconvenience to the unvaccinated for purposes to protect them as well as to increase vaccination rates.”
The government introduced the Vaccine Pass only for some high-risk establishments such as indoor gymnasiums, bathhouses and singing rooms, while implementing the coexisting with COVID-19 policy. However, as instances that the private sectors like companies or schools autonomously apply Vaccine Pass are increasing, the unvaccinated people that are complaining that it is discriminatory to them have also begun to increase.
The unvaccinated claimed that they experienced the disadvantages due to the introduction of Vaccine Pass of the private sector. A netizen made a posting on online community related to employment, complaining “I have not been vaccinated yet due to health, but the company forced me to get the vaccine.“ Besides, other netizen posted “I was going to join a company, but the company canceled joining because I was not vaccinated.”
The government did not oppose the introduction of independent vaccine passes in the private sector. The strategist Son said at a briefing on November 4, ”We are going to apply measures like the vaccine pass as preventive rules, but it is also reasonable for private sectors to expand various measures around the vaccinated. Hence, it is not a measure where the government can impose sanctions.” However, he added that it is necessary to review if some of the passes infringe on individual basic human rights.
Meanwhile, according to a survey about views of Vaccine Pass to October 2 from October 3 carried out by Korea Society Opinion Institute (KSOI), about 66% of 1,600 people in Korea said that they were in favor of Vaccine Pass for enhancing the vaccination rates. However, about 28% of them said they opposed it due to personal circumstances and anxiety of basis right infringement.
According to the survey of KSOI, public opinion in favor of Vaccine Pass held a majority. An anonymous person (51), a self-employed person who took the affirmative, said, “The existing social distancing was a way to demand the sacrifice of the self-employed. However, If Vaccine Pass is used to switch to the coexisting with COVID-19, which succors the self-employed, I will have no reason to reject it.” Kim Tark, an assistant professor at Soonchunhyang University Hospital, said, “It will be discrimination if people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons are restricted from using the facilities, but restricting those who rejected it without any reasons cannot be seen as discrimination.”
On the other hand, there have been comments that it is wrong for the government only to forge ahead with relevant policy on the grounds that the opinions in favor are superficially high. On October 1, the petition objecting to the Vaccine Pass received support from about 120,000 people. The petitioner asserted that it is not desirable to pressure to complete doubled-vaccinated through the Vaccine Pass, because there are many people who are not able to complete double-vaccinated due to personal constitution or who are reluctant to be vaccinated due to its side effects. Also, Soumya Swaminathan, a chief scientist at WHO, had a negative view on it in that people have doubt if the vaccine against COVID-19 could completely block the virus.
Controversy over the Vaccine Pass is found in foreign countries as well as in Korea. Several Italians have been protesting against Vaccine Pass of the government since July. Italy makes people present Green Pass, the same concept as Vaccine Pass. Italian should present Green Pass when entering indoor restaurants, fitness center, art galleries, and so on, or when taking long-distance public transport. The backlash is growing by anti-vaccinationist who evades vaccinations due to the semicoercive measures of the government to raise the vaccination rate. Also, in France, about 160,000 people participated in the protest against Vaccine Pass on July 24.
CUF surveyed students of CUK to listen to their opinions about the Vaccine Pass. The total number of participants was 30, and it was conducted from November 27 to December 4. The number of people in favor of the Vaccine Pass was 14, and the number of people against it was 16. As it is seen from the result of survey, it could be seen that the opinions are considerably different among them, too.
The students who responded that Vaccine Pass is necessary said, “The Vaccine Pass is a system that can guarantee minimal freedom from COVID-19 and is compensation for enduring the side effects.” Also, there was an opinion that it is necessary to introduce the Vaccine Pass to protect each other because the unvaccinated are relatively likely to be infected than the vaccinated. On the other hand, other students who responded that Vaccine Pass is unnecessary argued that it is a hasty decision to introduce Vaccine Pass when the side effects are not clearly explained, and the Vaccine efficacy is not sure. In addition, they responded that the government said the Vaccine is not mandatory, but if the Vaccine Pass is introduced, it would almost be the same with compulsion, so it would be infringement of fundamental rights.
The major purpose for the Vaccine Pass is to reach herd immunity by increasing the vaccination rates of people and to go back to normal life. Although policies about the Vaccine Pass do not satisfy everyone, it is essential to discuss the balance between conflicting opinions. In addition, Kim Yu-mi, a leader of the TF for vaccination certification and voice confirmation at the Central Disease Control Headquarters said, “We are continuing to review the range of application, going through discussion with experts.” It is important for the government to enforce the system that everyone can accept by listening to the opinions of experts and the public.