“Health, what madness is committed in your name.” This paraphrase of Madame Roland’s words (“Freedom, what crimes are committed in your name”) illustrates the dangers of the vaccine passport. While freedom is the first word in the French national motto, the passport tramples on public liberties, already undermined by three confinements and a long curfew.
Having to show a medical document (normally covered by medical secrecy) and an identity document to a bar owner, a museum guard or a private security guard (transformed into a police auxiliary) to prove that you have been vaccinated against a disease with a mortality rate of less than 0.5% is a liberticidal fury. The non-vaccinated will thus be deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms. But the vaccinated will not enjoy a completely normal life either—having to show identification and proof several times a day for quite ordinary activities (eating in a restaurant, having a coffee on the terrace—when there is no contamination outside—travelling by train, being treated in hospital…. This is not “normal life” at all.
It should be noted that the French vaccine passport is at the confluence of several rationales (if we dare say so). On the one hand, it is fully in line with the French statist, administrative and bureaucratic tradition, which dates back to the Ancien Régime and which was so fond of forms, controls and constraints. Already in March 2020, we had to stay in lockdown because we did not have masks, no tests, not enough hospital beds or respirators—but we did not lack discharge certificates or forms. Let’s remember that during the Revolution, in order to avoid trouble, it was better to have a certificate of civism issued by the sans-culotte officials who populated the offices of the Parisian municipality. This document attested to the good political conduct of the bearer.
Today, the vaccination passport is the certificate of good citizenship of our time. It is a formidable machine for producing stamps, certificates, QR codes, fines and various bureaucratic regulations… The decree of July 19, 2021 mentions that the vaccination passport is mandatory in “tents, marquees and structures, falling under type L (establishments mentioned in 10°, of article 34 and 6 of article 35), falling under type R (covered sports establishments of type X)”. This is French Absurdistan at its best.
On the other hand, the vaccine passport imitates the rationale of the “social score” that Chinese totalitarianism practices. In China, if you criticize the government, your social score will go down and you will not be able to travel abroad or buy an apartment. This is the same principle that is applied to another area with the vaccination passport. And new technologies facilitate this tracking system. In this pandemic, many things come from China (the virus itself, the containment, the introduction of the “social rating” mechanism…) and this should worry us deeply about our model of society and our conception of freedom. The vaccine passport constitutes a dangerous precedent and opens the door to all kinds of abuses.
We will be told that the health emergency takes precedence and that pragmatism is required. However, even from a health perspective, the passport is not a good idea. With the vaccine passport, the government is persisting in its initial mistake, which had already determined the choice of lockdown: taking non-targeted measures when the virus itself is extremely discriminating. Moreover, the vaccine—which protects very effectively against severe forms (which is an excellent thing)—does not protect against contamination and has no impact on the circulation and spread of the virus. A vaccinated person can be contaminated and can also contaminate.
At the end of 2020, without a vaccine, we were at 50,000 contaminations per day, and we thought that was already high. On January 18, 2022, when we had vaccinated 90% of the eligible population, we broke an absolute record with more than 460,000 cases. Everyone knows many people in their circle who were vaccinated with two or three doses but who nevertheless tested positive. Jean Castex and Olivier Véran both, although vaccinated, tested positive. So, we come to this completely crazy conclusion: a person who has been vaccinated and tested positive for Covid can take the TGV or go to the movies or to a restaurant and thus infect many other people. On the contrary, a person who is not vaccinated but negative to the Covid (and who can’t transmit the virus because he doesn’t have it) will be refused access to these same places. Such ineptitude should lead all of us, vaccinated or not, to protest against the vaccine passport.
Jean-Loup Bonnamy is a specialist in geopolitics and political philosophy. He recently published, with Renaud Girard, Quand la psychose fait dérailler le monde (Gallimard).