Sonia Hickey: Sydney Criminal Lawyers Blog.
At this year’s G20 Summit in Indonesia, the twenty participating world leaders signed a declaration to introduce vaccine passports for their respective jurisdictions, with the stated intention of creating a global verification system to facilitate safe international travel.
What is the G20?
The G20, which stands for Group of Twenty, is an assembly of governments and leaders from 20 of the world’s largest economies, and includes Australia.
The members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
Typically, the summit discusses issues of global importance, so it is perhaps no surprise that Covid-19 was a particular focus of this year’s summit.
Commitment to vaccines
In a statement, the leaders affirmed their respective countries’ support of the World Health Organization mRNA Vaccine Technology Transfer hub, which aims to build capacity in low- and middle-income countries to produce mRNA vaccines.
The leaders said they welcome joint production and research of vaccines and acknowledge the importance of shared technical standards and verification methods.
They also agreed to a globalised ‘vaccination passport’.
Vaccination passport to be introduced next year
While the details are scant at this stage, the statement says this will be done under the framework of the International Health Regulations to “facilitate seamless international travel, interoperability, and recognizing digital solutions and non-digital solutions, including proof of vaccinations.”
Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said that a Digital Health Certificate using World Health Organization standards would be introduced during the next World Health Assembly in Geneva, in May next year.
“If you have been vaccinated or tested properly, you can move around. So for the next pandemic, instead of stopping the movement of people 100%, you can still provide some movement of the people,” Mr Sadikin said.
Surprisingly, this news has not really grabbed the attention of mainstream media, despite its very serious implications for freedom of personal choice and freedom of movement.
For the past two years, Vaccines have been widely promoted, and in many cases mandated, as a way to mitigate the effects of Covid-19. They have caused a great deal of controversy too, particularly when “no jab, no job” policies were introduced.
There was a period of time when people who were not vaccinated were banned from entering restaurants, pubs, and clubs, retail shops and hairdressers… you couldn’t cross the border into another state without proof of being double-jabbed with an “approved vaccine”. Kids who weren’t vaccinated were denied sporting activities, and some people were even denied medical treatment.
This was not considered discrimination, in fact, in many cases, breaching these health regulations amounted to a criminal offence.
Discrimination and the social divide
In a Western democracy, for the many people who uphold and value of freedom of choice, much of this pandemic legislation seemed like disturbing government overreach and the strong push for vaccines created a significant amount of push back from people who were pro-choice. Many who protested their rights were arrested.
At the time, this group were largely branded “anti-vaxxers” and were turned into social pariahs, despite the fact that there was, at the time, no evidence that the vaccine would stop transmission of the virus, although medical evidence suggested it would lessen the severity of the virus if you caught it.
Around this time last year, in New South Wales the rhetoric around vaccinations changed from two jabs, to three being necessary to be considered “up-to-date.”
What about democracy?
But as we moved into 2022, and Australia adopted the “living with the virus” approach, relaxing all the rules and putting an end to the ‘emergency powers’ which gave governments the ability to create and enforce any rules they deemed necessary to deal with the pandemic, a sense of relief has come over our communities, the social divide created by vaccines is abating, and life seems to be returning to normal.
So, it’s somewhat alarming that governments – and of those belonging to the G20, the majority represent democracies – would consider introducing a passport that, since it was first mooted by individual countries, been widely condemned as medical discrimination as well as a violation of privacy with serious ethical implications.
Of more concern are reports that the vaccine won’t just apply to Covid vaccinations, but also to any vaccination that WHO recommends is required for international travel.
It’s a story to watch closely, particularly with the G20 governments so keen to quickly implement a scheme, and few details have actually been made public, such as which countries will adopt the passport, how many vaccines will be required, whether or not exemptions are possible … the list goes on.
In the meantime, the G20 is declaring the move on which will “build on the successes of Covid-19”.
It’s difficult to know exactly how those “successes” have been measured when you consider the immense social and economic cost of Covid-19.
Efficacy of vaccines
Whether or not the vaccine did save lives is something to seriously question too, given that at least one of the pharmaceutical companies involved in supplying a vaccine has been accused of falsifying data relating to its vaccine trials, that Australian GPs were threatened with deregistration, if they expressed concerns about the vaccines, exemptions were virtually impossible to obtain, and that most of us are still confused by lack of real transparency around the criteria governments used for identifying cases, active cases and covid deaths during the height of the pandemic.
Building on the ‘success’ of Covid-19’
In the wake of Covid, certainly here in Australia, the economy is a mess, businesses are struggling, mental health services are overwhelmed, recording higher numbers of patients presenting with depression than ever before, the number of homeless people increased, and so too have incidences of domestic violence.
Hundreds of thousands of children missed vital months of schooling; many people were fined or arrested, or subjected to police brutality during the enforcement of public health regulations… If our leaders also include these factors in the equation then the attempt at defeating Covid-19 (which still exists, by the way) can’t truly be considered a success at all.
Last but not least we need to also acknowledge the people who have suffered serious injuries from the vaccines. To date there are at least 10,000 people who intend to apply to the Australian Federal Government’s no-fault indemnity scheme – a cost that will be borne by Australian tax payers.