‘Vaccine certificates’ could result in intentional infections

UK government scientists have raised concerns that while the Covid-status certificates or ‘vaccine certificates’ may present numerous benefits, they can also lead to specific adverse outcomes.

These documents are intended to act as evidence for those who have been vaccinated, recovered from a previous infection, or have tested negative. These certificates, in turn, will allow the holders unrestricted access to events or permission to travel overseas.

Scientists state that such measures are sure to encourage people to get inoculated. However, they will also urge others to get infected deliberately. Once recovered from a Covid-19 infection, they can test positive for antibodies and receive a certificate.

Covid-19 Certificate displayed on a Smartphone

A social psychology professor at the Sussex University, John Drury, and his colleagues have written that ‘Allowing people to return to work, meet socially, and fulfil care obligations brings many social, emotional and economic benefits.

‘Indeed, it might be considered unethical to restrict the movements of those who pose minimal risk to others. Depending on how it is applied, health certification could also encourage vaccination uptake. It also has the potential for harm.

‘One concern from a behavioural perspective is that certification may foster an erroneous sense of no risk – both in those with and those without certificates –resulting in behaviours that increase risk of infection or transmission.

‘In addition, immunity certification based on a test-positive result for antibodies could have a paradoxical effect on health protective behaviours whereby people deliberately seek infection in order to acquire a certificate.’

They also go on to explain that, like ‘vaccine passports’, the certificates might rouse a false sense of safety in some people who possess them, inciting ignorance of social distancing measures and abandonment of masks.

This study was conducted by a team of eight behavioural scientists and psychologists, seven of whom are part of the government’s pandemic advisory body known as Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B).

Although not yet peer-reviewed, their paper on the ‘Behavioural responses to Covid-19 health certification’ discusses people’s responses and possible attitudes if immunity certificates are made available.

The scientists have gone on to consider that the certificates’ potential benefits, like allowing people to travel safely and attend events freely, must be weighed against any potential harm they may introduce.

Of the likely downsides, they say that, ‘the nature and scale of these remain uncertain. Also uncertain is how any harms might most effectively be mitigated.’