'Science and the Public Sphere' Seminar

‘Vaccine passport II: law-making and scientific uncertainties’

foule science publicsphere

Speakers: Timothy Endicott (All Souls College) and Christine Rollier (Oxford Vaccine Group)
Chair: Pascal Marty (MFO Director)

To attend this event, please register here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJ0pf-6vrTsqHNMYh4PCOhJjAUzXVxUlV_tS


This session will deal with legal and societal issues of the ‘passportisation’ approach of the pandemic. Introducing a right to participate in certain aspects of social and cultural life (going to a restaurant or a gym, gathering in a public space, travelling abroad, etc.) according to the health status of individuals raises the thorny question of the implementation of legal discrimination in democratic states: are the latter ready to assume the implementation of a differential legal regime based on the sanitary status of individuals which itself is evolving? Such a regime would in amount to making vaccination compulsory, whereas it is currently a matter of free choice, in a context of growing mistrust of vaccines due to doubts about their effectiveness and safety.


Timothy Endicott 
'Pandemic lawmaking and vaccine passports'

I will discuss the ways in which politicians in the UK and elsewhere have found themselves speaking out against requiring certification of vaccination against Covid-19 as an eligibility requirement for travel, for entry to places and to events, and for other purposes. What explains the inchoate sense held by many that vaccine certification is against the principles of our law and custom? Why is it less controversial to require certification of a negative test? How do these certification requirements relate to other dramatic restrictions on liberty adopted in the UK, in France, and around the world? And in the politics of pandemic lawmaking in general, what is the role of scientific uncertainty?


Christine Rollier
'Relevance of scientific uncertainties for the design and use of vaccine passports'

A large amount of data and knowledge have been accumulated in the last year on SARS-CoV-2 infection and disease, yet there remain many questions and unknowns that can influence the scientific usefulness of vaccine passports, and how to best design and use them. There is  a fundamental difference between having an immune response against a pathogen and having immunity against the infection. While both may be acquired by infection or vaccination, there are differences in the quality and longevity of the protection elicited. Moreover, several vaccines are available, given at different intervals; what is the meaning and impact of the varying vaccine efficacy, and how it is defined, on the passport? Key parameters influencing the use of vaccine passports include the variable longevity of protection and the impact on variants of concern,. I will discuss how the use of conservative estimates and additional tests may be considered.


About this seminar:


Vaccine passports: finding an adequate tool to exit the Covid-19 pandemic or opening Pandora’s Box?


For one year now, the option of vaccine passports or immunity certificates has been gaining ground to allow international travel or entry into certain public or cultural places: as vaccination campaigns are rolled out at an uneven pace according to countries and continents, getting the economy moving again and reviving social and cultural life appear to be priorities. Beyond practical, technological and organisational difficulties expected, the implementation of immunity certificates may create distinctions and reinforce unfairnesses between populations, both on a local and on a global scale. What scientific, ethical, legal and social dilemmas are at stake in implementing vaccine passports? Is it an adequate but premature project, as most of the world population cannot access the vaccine? What moral, ethical and social cost are we prepared to pay to regain our freedom of movement that the pandemic has so dramatically undermined? What is at stake in the “passportisation” approach of the current sanitary crisis the world is facing?


Three sessions of the seminar 'Science and the Public Sphere', convened by the Maison française d'Oxford, will address the challenges of implementing immunity certificates amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Each session will offer two presentations by acknowledged researchers in their field and a debate. All welcome.

Organised in collaboration with the Higher Education, Research and Innovation Department of the French Embassy in the United Kingdom.