Portuguese divided on vaccination passport in Europe

Opinions are divided among Portuguese people when it comes to the creation of a European vaccine passport for COVID-19, a document that would guarantee free transit between the countries of the European Union (EU).

European Commission Vice President, Margaritis Schinas, said on March 1 that the Commission is set to introduce a Digital Green Pass that will enable Europe’s safe opening “while preserving the sacrifices done so far.”

Schinas said the package will be announced on March 17 at a European Union (EU) summit that focuses on travel and mobility and the lifting of restrictions.

He said the Digital Green Pass will include information on vaccination, test results and statements of recovery and will fully respect data protection, security and privacy. “The aim would be to set a common direction towards Europe’s safe opening,” he said.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, after a video conference of the European Council on Feb. 26, said that a bloc-wide vaccine passport will be created “in the coming months,” which would allow vaccinated people to travel freely within the EU “without quarantine.”

“We are in favor of this as a measure for all Europe, and for this purpose, we work as EU Presidency, in conjunction with the European Commission, so that by the summer this document can exist,” he said then.

During a talk show on the Portuguese television channel SIC on Friday, political commentator Luis Pedro Nunes said the “European vaccine passport” is not going to work because there are different types of vaccines and not all of them offer the same protection against COVID-19.

“In addition, it is not possible to prove that the vaccinated individual does not transmit the virus, which would require a negative test before traveling. So this passport concept is just an absurd idea,” he said.

Nunes, however, said that the proposal for a “digital immunity certificate is not such a bad idea” because it would be a database “powered by accredited laboratories” with unified information from the people who took a test before boarding.

Clara Ferreira Alves, a writer and literary critic, said that the creation of a vaccine passport is an idea that is “extremely aggressive and impossible to put into practice”.

“Europe has made a mistake with vaccines, as there are not enough for everyone. There is something very strange, sick and sinister in the EU’s relationship with the pharmaceutical industries since vaccines that are not Western are rejected,” she said.

The commentator of the television channel SIC Daniel Oliveira said that he does not see ethical problems with the vaccine passport against COVID-19, because this instrument already exists for diseases such as yellow fever, as long as the vaccine is available to everyone.

According to him, the European Commission should use legal means to break the vaccine patents and thus “guarantee health for all and not profit for some.”

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in an increasing number of countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 261 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide — 79 of them in clinical trials — in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on March 5.