COVID-19 'Immunity Passports' Could Be a Good Idea

Why not let recovered coronavirus patients out of lockdown?


In the United Kingdom, Health Secretary Matt Hancock says that the government is looking into issuing "immunity certificates" to COVID-19 patients who have recovered from the illness. Such certificates, he told The Telegraph, would "enable people who have had the disease, have got the antibodies and therefore have immunity" to "get back as much as possible to normal life."

Germany is also considering such a scheme, according to The Guardian. German researchers are preparing a mass study that aims to find out the extent of the pandemic by initially testing 100,000 volunteers for coronavirus antibodies. The testing would be extended to a growing sample of the population over time.

An immunity passport scheme could be piggybacked onto the testing campaign. "Those who are immune could be issued with a kind of vaccination pass that would for example allow them to exempted from restrictions on their activity," Gerard Krause, head of epidemiology at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, told The Guardian.

One downside of the scheme is that it might tempt some people to actively seek infection in order to obtain an immunity passport as way to get out of lockdown. That would foolish, since a good proportion of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are young or have no risk factors. Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, warned the Guardian that this "would be putting your life at risk to try and catch it at the moment." Better, he argued, "to adhere to social distancing and to wait for the vaccine."

Nonetheless, this has at least some potential as a way to loosen the ties that have brought so much work and so many lives to a standstill. At the very least, it's an idea our officials should explore.


NEXT: Coronavirus Gives the Illiberal Right Fever Dreams of Power

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  1. Don’t give government hysteria any more credence.

    Fuck the government that thinks it can tell citizens to stay home or when they can leave. Burn the governments to the ground and start a new government that considers freedom a good thing.

    1. In no civilized society does personal freedom extend to putting others at serious risk of getting a dangerous virus.

      1. And who defines “serious risk” or “dangerous virus”? The government?

        1. Who defines serious risk for other types of risk?

          1. An actuary. Hopefully one without skin in the game being played.

            1. Exactly. That’s what insurance is for, to hedge against risk.

      2. “In no civilized society does personal freedom extend to putting others at serious risk of getting a dangerous virus.”

        This is the EXACT excuse for government control, every damn time.
        Fuck off, slaver. Terrified of getting sick? STAY HOME.

        1. But putting an even greater risk of destitute poverty on more people is just fine in order to avoid something so dangerous most people who’ve had it don’t even know it and go on living their lives.

      3. MollyGodiva
        April.2.2020 at 6:34 pm

        In no civilized society does personal freedom extend to putting others at serious risk of getting a dangerous virus.

        Yes, only governments are allowed to do that.

    2. Papers, please.

      1. That already exist in some states your child is nit allowed in school without proof of vacination. Soon we will have our vacine cards

        1. Given your facility for spelling, it’s apparent that you are intimately familiar with public schools.

  2. Seriously? Such a liberty-centric solution. “Papers, please…”

    I generally in support of Bailey’s large scale testing idea, but this type of outcome is one of the more undesirable. I would like to see large scale, community testing of a significant random population to get an idea of the general scope of this, what percentage of people have/had it and don’t realize it, etc. But not having to show proof of testing to go about your life.

    1. There is a reason that government officials are scared shitless of testing every citizen.

      It would probably reveal that nearly every citizen was exposed to the KungFlu, only a portion became infected, only a smaller portion had any symptoms, and the tiniest portion had severe symptoms, an even tinier portion died.

      1. Governments nuked their respective economies for no good reason because most citizens had already recovered
      2. Government lied about it.

  3. And counterfeits would be hard to make, of course.

    1. At least as hard as dollars, anyhow.

  4. Aren’t there at least two strains?

    1. Yes. Elastic strain and ductile strain.

      1. What about groin strain

      2. Engineering joke, good one. I chuckled.

        Also, NEEERRRRRDDDD!!!111!!!!!!!1!!!!

  5. So now we need papers to move around and to work. I would never advocate for such a thing. Hey why don’t we require it for people with HIV then? Had the chicken pox – if not you can’t go outside. Communicable disease is a part of human existence. We can try to stamp it out as best as possible, but ultimately we are never going to eliminate it without massive genetic engineering. This is not fucking Ebola or Marburg. This entire distancing project, attempted for the first time worldwide, is about government not getting blamed when there are too few hospital beds and ventilators. They are willing to throw us down the well for their benefit, and we are complying.

    1. Yup.

    2. “This entire distancing project, attempted for the first time worldwide, is about government not getting blamed when there are too few hospital beds and ventilators. They are willing to throw us down the well for their benefit, and we are complying.”

      Completely agree. Given the rate of hospitalization with a Covid infection, for people in their 20s is absurdly low—anecdotal cases aside—I’m not surprised that young people would be trying to catch this, just to get their life back in order.

      A libertarian article advocating ‘papers please’ is a new one for me.

    3. Few points. Our lack of hospital beds is because of private hospitals not wanting the extra overhead. And social distancing has been tried in the past with success, just not on this scale. And this is a kinda unique virus because of how easy it spreads, how long one can spread it without symptoms, and it’s relative high death rate.

      1. Yeah I’m sure that certificate of need laws have nothing to do with the lack of supply. We would have plenty of beds and medical professionals if government didn’t restrict those activities at every step.

      2. I have a hunch that, when all is said and done, covid19 will look statistically indistinct from the typical flu.
        Bad to add another bug to an already going flu season, but I’m skeptical that its stats are unique

        1. What it probably won’t move much are the statistics on pneumonia. If we’d done a lot of virology on the cases labeled “viral pneumonia” other than flu and a few others, we’d see various mixes of pathogens over time, but overall the number and type of people getting serious pneumonias stays about the same.

      3. Lack of hospital beds is because 99.9% of the time you don’t need them, and guess what requiring hospitals to keep massive amounts of unneeded beds will do their costs that get passed on to you?

      4. Most of the lack of beds is from governments putting artificial caps on number of hospitals in a region.

        1. Exactly. And the dearth in doctors and nurses is due to the occupational licensing and other regulations that restrict what procedures and where you can employ to help people.

      5. Certificate of Need says hi, chicken little.

      6. Our system has been hamstrung by artificial doctor caps for DECADES. Certificate of Need laws mean you need to get permission from your competitors to open!

        But yeah, I’m sure it’s all that free market we have in health care that’s the problem.

      7. “And this is a kinda unique virus because of how easy it spreads, how long one can spread it without symptoms, and it’s relative high death rate.”

        And what real numbers do we have to put to any of these? No one seems to really know how easy it spreads, or how much spread is due to asymptomatic carriers- you hear all kinds of theories on that, sometimes different ones in the same article, depending on the narrative being advanced. And the death rate- again, what is it? And not just based on the sampled population, which is very likely heavily biased towards those who are ALREADY exhibiting the most severe symptoms. One thing is certain- ALL of those statements cannot be true, or we would be seeing massive numbers of dead. And we’re not. Despite hysterics about “thousands” dead (which there are, and there will be thousands more), “thousands” die every day. Even if a million people died in the US, that would be less than one third of one percent of our population. Not nothing, but in the grand scheme of things, an insignificant number.

      8. Here’s the kicker….

        No one knows much of anything at all about the death rate. Anyone that spouts a number is peddling in nothing more than inaccurate math based off of inaccurate numbers.

  6. It’s a terrible idea.

  7. “would be putting your life at risk to try and catch it at the moment.”
    Why not let people decide for themselves? I saw a documentary on polio the other night: apparently there was a batch of Salk’s vaccine that was prepared incorrectly and kids got polio from it. For a week, the vaccine was taken off the market by the government. People were so scared of polio, they DEMANDED the vaccine even though there was a slight chance of actually getting polio that killed and maimed for life.

    1. Polio is a horrible horrible disease. Even if you survive, you will likely be crippled.

      I mean Jesus Christ, kill me if I got this disease.
      The Last Few Polio Survivors – Last of the Iron Lungs | Gizmodo

      1. My sister in law got it the year before the vaccine was developed. She spent her entire life on crutches. She’s 70 now and her body is completely worn out.

        1. I met a lady last summer who used a cane, etc. She was not particularly old- early/mid 60s I would say. She mentioned that it was from Polio; I said that, based on her apparent age, I was surprised she got it since I figured she would have been in the vaccinated cohort. She told me that it was something like weeks before they started giving out the vaccine in her community that she came down with it.

      2. Except it’s really not. Polio had been cured before Salks vaccine. High dose intravenous ascorbic acid. Less than 2% of those who were infected with polio had symptoms and less than 2% of those with symptoms had any lasting effects. Also why not ask yourself why polio had a ridiculous spike in serious symptoms starting at the same time DDT was being sprayed directly onto children?

    2. Because if you get it and don’t have the means to pay for your medical care, someone else will have to.

      1. Have to? You mean like at gunpoint?

  8. Better, he argued, “to adhere to social distancing and to wait for the vaccine.”

    Why are they calling it ‘social distancing’? Seems to me the proper term should be physical distancing. Calling it the former seems like psychological manipulation. A deliberate attempt to isolate and cut off people from their self-created human associations in order to imprint authority figures from the media

    1. Why not call it fascist mandated separation from your fellow man?
      Longer to say, but more accurate.

      1. Fascism for short

    2. This is one thing on which I completely agree with you. If we are going to have this nonsense, can we at least call it something that a) better reflects what it is and b) doesn’t sound so draconian? I’m not looking forward to a world where “social distancing” and “shelter in place” are part of the normal lexicon, especially since they will be established weapons in the government’s arsenal going forward.

      1. I’d bet we have heavier and heavier restrictions, accompanied by massive spending bills that will, by design, Lin Em all the right pockets, at least once a decade from here out. Now that there’s definitive proof that people will not only accept lockdown and government ordered economic ruin, but that a large portion will beg for even more while playing a stooge and shaming others who don’t agree, the cat’s out of the bag, and government won’t even try and put it back in.

        We’re fucked.

  9. One downside of the scheme is that it might tempt some people to actively seek infection in order to obtain an immunity passport as way to get out of lockdown. That would foolish

    Well, I’m glad that our betters like Ron Bailey can tell us what and what isn’t foolish. I mean, someone who faces financial ruin from the lockdown just shouldn’t be as “foolish” as to take a negligible risk of death and a small risk of hospitalization in order to rescue their business. Oh, no! We all should just stay at home! Because that’s what Ron Bailey does! Libertarianism FTW!

    1. I noticed that too. It’s incredible the extent to which journalists are disconnected from the rest of society.

      1. Journalism can be done from home. Journalists still get paid. Tens or hundreds of Americans don’t have that luxury, and are facing bankruptcy, homelessness, and complete ruin.
        This is madness. We need to march on State capitals- six feet apart, of course.

  10. Fuck no.

    1. Ok, read the article. It’s even dumber. That’s the only downside you could come up with? Really?

  11. how about a tattoo on my arm?

    1. Do we get to choose our numbers?

      I choose “69”

      1. They could balance the budget auctioning off 666.

      2. i don’t think they let you choose but can’t hurt to ask.

      3. Tekashi beat you to it

      4. Luckily, they’ve already assigned you a number, citizen.

      1. lol i love that scene

  12. I will be good goddamned if I will be denied an immunity passport just because I know how to not touch my fucking face.

    1. How do you expect to get a certificate of immunity if you are not immune? And there are other ways to get it other then touching your face.

      1. No proof yet that those who have had it are immune. That is just an assumption right now.

        1. I’ve read up on this. For now, the timeframe is such that it’s highly unlikely to get reinfected simply because the virus strain has not had much time to mutate. You’re unlikely to get sick a month later from the same disease since you’ll have antibodies. It may be the case that immunity will last, or it may become a new yearly disease making the rounds that will require a new vaccine.

          1. Could you imagine a yearly “immunity passport” program?

            1. Unfortunately, I can. Such a thing could easily turn into a “social credit” system, to restrict everyone’s freedom to travel.

              1. After all, nobody really needs to be able to visit the beach on a whim. Or take an impulsive trip to DisneyWorld. Or to decide to take off work early and go watch a ballgame.

                1. Government officials disagree.

                  Sonoma County’s top emergency management official enjoyed a family road trip to the beach despite a strict shelter-in-place order that has closed Sonoma County parks, beaches and open spaces in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

                  Supervisor David Rabbitt defended Godley on Sunday, saying very few people can do what Godley does. He called for more lax rules for people like Godley and health care professionals.

                  “I want my top people who are responding to this crisis to be of sound mind, body and health,” Rabbitt said. “And if that means going to the coast to feel better, I’m all for it.”


                  1. wow that is ridiculous.

                  2. Stupid little people, don’t you understand how hard your government betters work for you? They’re fucking essential!


                  3. The nomenklatura has always had rights in accordance with their grave responsibilities and duties. Who are you to question the work this noble public servant does for The Party?

                    So fucking typical.

          2. Like the common cold vaccine. That one works great. Even better than the SARs vaccine. These coronaviruses hate vaccines. Stops ’em dead in their tracts.

            1. “tracks” goddammit!

            2. Yeah. There are no vaccines for coronaviruses. If you get the Wuflu, I’d guess that you are immune until the next mutation shows up next year.
              So, are we going to keep this quarantine going through August, and then reinstit it again in November?
              This is madness. It is the West committing suicide, and I don’t wish to participate.

  13. And we have how many years of verified scientific studies confirming that re-infection is impossible, and once infected you cannot be a carrier?

    1. Yeah, that might be the turd in the punchbowl. Viruses are ‘supposed’ to be selected by evolution, for less deleterious effects in their host, but can you imagine if this thing mutates fast enough that infection doesn’t give you immunity from reinfection? And finds an animal host in North America?

      Like winter cold season, only now with 3% fatality…

      1. THAT is the turd in the punchbowl for you?

        1. Yeah, a common cold with 3 percent fatality that shows up each year would be pretty fucking bad.

          I can’t believe I have to explain this shit to adults.

          1. Well that seems pretty unlikely. Viruses can generally be deadly or widespread and persistent, but not both. A virus’s job is to survive, like all living things. A deadly virus kills some portion of its hosts, and more importantly makes others take notice and take measures to avoid infection. Thus preventing it from being widespread over the long term. Thus successful, endemic viruses tend to be relatively benign. I mean look at this coronavirus- it sucks at its job, because its job is to survive. And it has got the entire world focused on doing everything in its power to stop that. It might be successful in the short term, but long term between weeding out those most susceptible to having symptoms and making people particularly fearful of getting ANY virus and taking all kinds of extra precautions, it’s in all likelihood going to be a failure, unless it mutates into something that isn’t as scary.

  14. Wow, you all hate this but I think it’s a great idea. And if I was young, and didn’t have a daughter with an impaired immune system, I would want to catch this thing now to get it over with, keep to myself up for a few weeks, and then be one of the few “vaccinated” so I could go out and get back to work pronto. I would love a system to verify antibodies; my oldest son got something from his girlfriend, and they are both over it, but I am currently keeping my distance for another week. Of course Kaiser wouldn’t test them. I would love to be able to see them get a leg up for getting put back to work. All they are doing now is working the World of Warcraft.

    There is no way everyone has had Covid or Kung Foue if you prefer, or the numbers wouldn’t still be going up, but of course, it is obvious that the “confirmed” cases number, is at least surpassed by a factor of 10. Still that leaves plenty more to infect. I am not saying we should be losing our shit, running in circles, and destroying our economy, which is what is going on right now. However, this isn’t a government conspiracy either. It is worldwide. Some of you act like you believe in the Illuminatae.

    1. It is NOT a great idea.

    2. “Wow, you all hate this but I think it’s a great idea.”

      Goody for you; do it yourself and leave me out of it.

    3. You are insane. You could move to China where that type of system is in place and leave us alone.

  15. A person who proclaims to be libertarian is advocating passage papers?

    You know what we really need-electronic approval for free movement. We can sign up with our local government and pick our timeslots for when we’re allowed to go to the grocery store, to work, or to buy gas, and have those saved on our iphones. And then when we get there, we’ll just conveniently scan the barcodes on our phones to show that we’re where we’re supposed to be. It will be so efficient and such a good idea!

    1. The Chinese hukou system writ large

    2. And yet, they stick to their ideological impossibility of open borders.

      Methinks they don’t actually practice reason. At best, they live on a slightly lower floor of the ivory tower.

    3. I don’t have an iPhone, I use android…

      1. You’ll be sent to the re-education center.

    4. To simplify the process, the government will issue us our phones, which will simply detonate if we stray too far.

  16. How would this be enforced?

    1. Guards on every street corner, asking for your papers. With a German accent, danke.

      1. “Papiere!”
        “Papiere, du mieser Arschloch!”

      2. An app just like china is using right now

  17. I got a better idea:
    Everybody terrified of getting sick? You folks stay home.
    That’s it.

    1. Ding! Ding!

  18. This is the same sort of BS as the TSA’s “trusted traveller” or “global entry” (or whatever the eff it has morphed into at this point). The whole idea of equality before the law is that we are all treated the same and there is no preferential treatment based on ability (or willingness ) to pay, or submit to the inquisition, or whatever. Sorry Ron, 99% of the time I count myself among your greatest fanboys, but on this one, not so much.

  19. Even if “immunity passports” were a good idea from a pragmatic or utilitarian perspective, they’re the antithesis of a libertarian idea. More and more I’m starting to wonder if Reason isn’t simply a troll rag these days. It seems to exist only to yank its readers’ chains.

  20. This is not ok

  21. Worst libertarian magazine ever.

  22. I was under the impression that the chinese were finding out the hard way that not everyone who had “recovered” had actually shaken the disease, they had just stopped showing symptoms. And they were also finding out that quite a few folks who had recovered were getting sick again. In fact, if I remember correctly, it was this website that brought it up in an article. So how the hell would this be a good idea?

    1. Ron Bailey doesn’t care if it “works”. He just likes the idea of internal passports.

    2. Would it surprise you if they were lying before and after? How about during as well?

      1. Nope. The Chinese lie like the Irish drink, constantly.

        1. I’ll drink to that!

          1. I don’t believe you.

    3. The communists ordered them to recover, so they did.

  23. JFree and Hihn should be here cheering on more government intrusion in our lived and distortion of the economy!
    Hey, JFree? Someone steal your PANIC!!! flag? Hihn, please cite another of your earlier clams for proof if the one you post tonight; dementia can be amusing in a pathetic piece of shit like you.

  24. Papers please….

    Sounds like a good foundation for denying someone’s rights based on their immunity or vaccination status. Real or imagined.

    You can’t be out past 9 without the xyz vaccine. Shame you’re number 328,899,105 in line to get that vaccine.

  25. BTW, the local bay area governments are now ‘requiring’ that no one travel farther than 5 miles for any activity which is not deemed to be ‘essential’.
    I am more than willing to become the test case here, but I think IJ would prefer a black dad, going to Costco 8 miles away, in order to get some food for his kids.

    1. A gay black single dad, with a Spanish surname and a combat related disability?

  26. This is the situation that Americans who still believe in freedom feared would never come! It is frightening how quickly we all fall in line when government almighty saying it’s for your own good. The real scary part about it is how much easier it’s going to be for government to enact these restrictions the next time something way less aggresive than Covid-19 (KungFlu for the layperson) comes around.

  27. “It’s for your own good…” – traveling papers… – seriously…?!?!
    Perhaps they can just issue everyone without immunity an armband with a star on it, so they could be easily identified, and moved as a group when necessary.

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