Caplan: One thousand percent. I could even imagine a situation where places say, “If you want to come in, we happen to have a vaccination site here.” We did have a company, Krispy Kreme, say that if you get vaccinated, they’ll give you a donut a day for the rest of the year.
Hamblin: I like that positive incentivization. I was hoping that would lead to a cascade where all the corporations would suddenly be like, “Oh yeah, well, you can get free Nike shoes! And you get a free flight!”
Caplan: The Miami Heat basketball team has already offered a special section that you can sit in with good views if you’re vaccinated.
Hamblin: This is such an American capitalistic approach. It feels less politically divisive. There’s not actually a requirement, but you can get free stuff.
Caplan: I’m sure people in Ireland, Israel, China, etc., [are] all saying, “The Americans are insane. They don’t want their government to do things, but they’re perfectly happy to have giant corporations or little businesses put requirements on them.”
Higgins: It is quite stunning to me from my vantage point in Europe. And the other thing I keep wondering about, especially with this kind of conservative-led pushback: “We’re not going to give you all of our information.” It makes me think about [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and the younger Dreamers. Seven hundred thousand kids from undocumented families took that risk and gave their home addresses. They trusted the U.S. government enough to say, “OK, this is us. Here we are,” knowing that it could be all taken away, and then there’d be a database of them. There’s nothing like that for the vaccine. It’s not even possible, as you pointed out, that there would be some federal database.
Caplan: And here’s another thing that’s odd to much of the world: We also don’t have an integrated health system with records in it. If you ask a person in Israel [if they’re] worried about [their] privacy, they’re going to say, “What privacy? The health system is four HMOs. They know everything about me.”
Here, there are still people saying they’re not going to get health insurance, because they don’t want people to know about them. It’s a very different pluralistic approach. A good part of the world is very used to the government having all their health information.
Hamblin: But in the U.S., people are worried about that because they could actually be discriminated against in certain ways.
Caplan: Right. And so the irony of ironies again is: If you have a national health system like Britain or Israel, you’re not worried about being penalized. You don’t care what the government knows about you because you’re in the system.
Hamblin: It seems like vaccine passports are poking into all these preexisting concerns about privacy and inequities in access to care. This relatively small, seemingly straightforward measure is becoming politicized because it touches on so many of these things that are already raw.