Antoinette Aho

Freshman, Folsom Lake

The US government is not the keeper of Americans; if it were, public health agencies would ban cigarettes and regulate the fast food market. Our government’s previous dismissal of American health contradicts its efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic and suggests ulterior, power-driven motives. In the case of vaccine passports, the argument is not about health, but about freedom. Restricting travel, or any service, on the basis of medical history is an un-American infringement upon individual liberties.

For the last seventeen months, lawmakers have implemented increasingly authoritarian policies in the name of public health. Under the guise of emergency powers, outrageous and unpopular laws bypassed the legislative process. Emergency powers, granted in times of crisis, have subsequently created a constitutional crisis by allowing lawmakers to undermine the legislative process. The tactic is not new, as America previously experienced the abuse of emergency orders. During the pandemic, Governor Gavin Newsom epitomized said constitutional crisis. On March 4th, 2020 a state of emergency was declared in response to COVID-19, a status that has not ended over a year later. Within two weeks, Newsom implemented eleven executive orders to control his constituents, from an emergency order to close schools, to permitting unprecedented mail-in ballots for all state elections. Emergency orders do not respect legislative limits, therefore allowing lawmakers to overreach their hand of implied power. A true constitutional republic gives power to the people by maintaining a representative government, permitting individual state rights, and operating by checks and balances. If today’s lawmakers believed in American values, the popularity of vaccine passports would be tested on the ballot. 

If the government does not trust the citizen, tyranny will be excused as safety. That is not to say crises do not exist; however, a virus with a 98.25 percent survival rate, reporting at record-low deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, does not constitute a crisis. Another wave of COVID-19 may be inevitable, as viruses develop over time and create new strains, but they are typically less infectious and severe. Even two months into the spread of the Delta variant, US daily deaths are at a 90 percent decrease from peak fatalities. Natural viral evolution seems to suggest COVID-19 policies will continue to take a totalitarian hold on America for years. Ongoing policies have proven the power of the government and its ability to limit the rights of citizens.

One of the many beauties of America is the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our founding fathers ensured these God-given rights were granted to every American upon our country’s founding; however, two centuries later, American leaders are losing appreciation for liberty. In July, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel released a statement suggesting mandating vaccines, even if they are not fully authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is legal under current laws. The counsel claims vaccine mandates do not interfere with “an individual’s right to refuse in that context. Rather, they impose secondary consequences—often in the form of exclusion from certain desirable activities, such as schools or employment—in the event of refusal.” However, when secondary consequences lead to discrimination from society, the initial policy poses an issue. Medical apartheid, a term first used in a COVID-19 context by conservative leader Charlie Kirk, depicts the reality of vaccine passports. Americans may not be forced into getting vaccinated, however, the unvaccinated will likely become a marginalized community. Access to public transport, public spaces such as restaurants and libraries, and even the ability to work will be a “secondary consequence.” Furthermore, vaccination rates are skewed across ethnic lines. Reporting by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests 25 percent of the Black population is fully vaccinated. Implementing vaccine passports with current vaccine rates will essentially bring back segregation by excluding the unvaccinated from society. 

Every American has tasted the moldy hand of an overreaching government since pandemic-induced lockdowns and restrictions began. Like mold, these policies spread over time, starting with business closures, expanding to mask requirements, limitations on social gatherings, and now vaccine passports. Stealthily, lawmakers implemented these policies in the name of science, wrapping constituents around their fingers. Opposing COVID-19 mandates does not prevent individuals from getting the vaccine, wearing a mask, or staying inside, rather, it protects the freedom to choose and enhances personal responsibility. Vaccine passports will not be a government cure to COVID-19, they will only continue to threaten America’s promise of freedom. 

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