Applications for vaccine passports, official certificates showing the COVID-19 vaccine history of the holder, started being accepted at government offices in Japan from July 26.
They are being issued to individuals on the premise that the holder will be subject to less strict entry requirements and relaxed quarantine restrictions when traveling to certain designated foreign countries and regions.
The government expects to expand the countries that accept the vaccine passports of Japanese residents, starting first with such countries as Italy and Austria. At the same time, it is hoped that they will be effective as means of ensuring safe travel.
However, the government is wary of making use of the vaccine passports at home. But why limit their use to international travel?
The government should instead come up with many ways to use the vaccination passports in order to facilitate the safe resumption of social and economic activities in Japan.
Aside from the vaccine passport, there is also a vaccine certificate issued at the time of inoculation as proof of the vaccine that was given, when and where it took place. However, a useful way to apply this certificate to help to resume social and economic activities also has yet to be found.
Under the circumstances, even if vaccinations progress much faster than before, future prospects for the resumption of normal social and economic activities are bound to remain uncertain. Therefore, whether it chooses vaccine passports or vaccine certificates, the government is strongly urged to work out steps to make effective use of these documents domestically.
There is a widespread desire to see vaccination certificates used for a wider range of purposes. Japan’s largest business lobby, the Japan Business Federation, known as Keidanren, has proposed using the certificates as a basis for easing restrictions on event attendance, encouraging participation in domestic package tours, and making it easier to visit nursing care facilities and medical institutions. If the sense of security in resuming economic activities spreads, it will help encourage the public’s understanding of the usefulness of vaccination against the virus.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, has said, “It is not appropriate to coerce the public to get vaccinated by using unfair discrimination on the grounds of whether one has or has not been vaccinated.” This may be a prominent reason for the government to hesitate using the certificates domestically.
An individual’s decision not to vaccinate should, of course, be respected. Some may be unable to receive the shots because of their physical conditions or for other reasons, even if deep down they have a desire to be vaccinated.
However, it is not appropriate for the government to maintain excessive impartiality in the midst of a national health emergency. Instead, alternatives should be considered for people who opt out of vaccinations, such as virus tests. Putting such measures on the table is definitely a priority. The most important thing, though, is to create an environment that allows people to get back to work with a sense of security, even in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Some foreign countries have already begun using vaccine passports ahead of Japan. The European Union (EU), for instance, launched its own digital vaccination passport in the beginning of July, which can be used by citizens of EU countries in common.
Japan, too, should waste no time in introducing highly efficient electronic vaccine passports and encourage their use.
(Read the Sankei Shimbun editorial in Japanese at this link.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun