1. COVID-19 immunity passports and vaccination certificates, ‘could increase virus spread’

  • Why immunity passports, release certificates could increase the risks of continued transmission?

  • What is the idea behind immunity passports, release certificates?

  • What do we know about immunity from Covid-19?

UPSC Can list these Questions under

GS paper 2 ( Issues related to health )

What is the context about?

  • Late last month, Chile announced that it would push for “release certificates” for those individuals who had recovered from Covid-19.
  • Other countries such as the UK, Italy and Germany have also considered issuing “immunity passports” and “risk-free certificates” that would enable people to travel or return to work based on the assumption that having contracted the disease once, they would be immune to it for a considerable period of time.

Why immunity passports, release certificates could increase the risks of continued transmission?

  • Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) warned against using such certificates, since there was no evidence yet that a person infected with Covid-19 could not get the infection again.
  • At this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’ or ‘risk-free certificate’.
  • People who assume they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission.

What is the idea behind immunity passports, release certificates?

  • Such certificates are based on the idea that the natural immunity a person develops to any infection will protect them from contracting the disease again.
  • Once infected with a viral pathogen, the body’s innate immune response kicks in, which slows the spread of the virus and potentially helps not lead to any symptoms.
  •  This response is then followed by an “adaptive response”, wherein the body makes antibodies, which bind to the virus and help eliminate it, thereby preventing the reinfection.

What do we know about immunity from Covid-19?

  • At present, there is no evidence that contracting the infection once protects the person from getting re-infected.
  • Further, even if immunity from Covid-19 is considered, the duration is not known. That is, will a person be immune for a few weeks, or a few months, or a couple of years?
  • Due to the lack of evidence, the WHO has warned against using immunity passports and other such documents as a measure to be used for the next phase of the pandemic.