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What is an “immunity passport”?

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

What is an “immunity passport”?

What to study?

For Prelims: What are they? What are antibodies? How are they tested?

For Mains: Significance of these passports, concerns associated and alternatives Available.

Context: A few countries have started considering issuing “immunity passports” or some kind of certificates indicating a person has immunity to COVID-19. 

However, the World Health Organization has warned against idea of ‘immunity passports’.

What is an “immunity passport”?

The idea for the “immunity passport” or a “back to work” pass is this: If you’ve been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and recover, then you have immunity that will protect you from getting the disease again for some amount of time.

Why is WHO against this idea?

  1. It says there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected against a second infection.
  2. Some experts think that it may be too soon to consider it.
  3. Many have criticised the scheme as both scientifically and ethically controversial.
  4. Lack of necessary information would make categorising between immune and non-immune persons a challenging as well as potentially dangerous task.
  5. There are also logistical problems, as not enough test kits are still available around the world to be able to issue such certificates on a large scale. Also, many researchers continue to remain sceptical about entirely relying on antibody tests to issue certificates.
  6. At the same time, experts have said that issuing such certificates would create resentment among members of the community, and raise the possibility of stigmatisation.

Why such strategies are needed now?

The coronavirus pandemic has now shut down the activities and economies in many countries that are experiencing increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases.

  • Immunity passports would help us get out of stay-at-home orders and economic shutdown.
  • In theory, people who have an immunity passport could safely return to work because they would not get sick again and start passing the virus around. Then business and activity could slowly return to normal.

Sources: Indian Express.