Passport to neoliberal normality? A critical exploration of COVID-19 vaccine passports

Luke Telford, Mark Bushell, Owen Hodgkinson

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic governments across the world including in France, Canada, Lithuania, Austria, Italy, and Ireland imposed ‘vaccine passports’ on the premise that they would curtail transmission of the virus, reduce COVID-19 related mortalities, and enable society to return to neoliberal normality. However, vaccine passports raise several important and troubling issues that have not been given sufficient attention within the social sciences. Therefore, this article offers a critique of vaccine passports. It is structured into three key themes: (a) scientifically and ethically problematic, (b) the death of the social and the ‘Other’, and (c) digital surveillance and freedom. The article begins by exploring how vaccine passports make little scientific sense and further entrench some unvaccinated peoples’ sense of political and medical mistrust. It then discusses how they amplify social divisions, creating the unvaccinated Other in society and intensifying the neoliberal shift towards a post-social, contactless world. The paper closes with an outline of how vaccine passports were cast as enabling a return to neoliberal normality and freedom, hinging upon an assumption of harmlessness while cementing the negative ideology of capitalist realism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-61
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Contemporary Crime, Harm, and Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes

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