No, Minister, Vaccine Passports Are Not Necessary to End the Pandemic

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi has insisted to MPs in the Commons that vaccine passports are necessary to end the pandemic. The evidence, however, suggests otherwise.

While the U.K. has seen a spike in reported ‘cases’ in recent days, much of it is driven by the increase in testing as schools have returned. The positive rate, by contrast, shows a gentle decline.

There’s no sign here of vaccine passports being needed to prevent unmanageable spread.

What about elsewhere? Israel is a highly vaccinated country which got in there early with vaccines, so that upwards of 55% of the population has been double vaccinated since early April, and it has made extensive use of vaccine passports.

India, by contrast, is a low vaccination country which only recently broke through 10% double vaccinated.

How are they faring? Israel is currently experiencing a big surge in Delta infections, at a time when over 62% of the population is double vaccinated.

India was the first place to have a Delta wave, back in March and April (the variant, of course, was first identified there). New reported infections entered sharp and sustained decline around May 9th. At that point, fewer than 2.5% of the population were double vaccinated.

Clearly, then, vaccines do not prevent Delta outbreaks, and neither are they necessary to end them.

If you’re wondering about the small recent rise in India, it’s entirely concentrated in two states (on opposite sides of the country), Kerala and Mizoram, which stand out as having had very different reported infection patterns than the rest of the country since late July. As can be seen below, Kerala is now declining again while Mizoram (the other anomalous line) is behaving more erratically. This is not (yet) a new nationwide surge in infections then, though is worth keeping an eye on.

Another country worth looking at is Sweden. Its Delta surge duly appeared, but then, unlike in Israel, quickly seems to be fizzling out. Is this a result of having more robust herd immunity from allowing the virus to spread more freely?

Excess mortality in the country continues to be through the floor, meaning that August 2020 to July 2021 may well turn out to be a year of very ordinary levels of mortality, just as August 2019 to July 2020 did.

If this is the outcome in a country that famously imposed no stay-at-home order, closed no businesses or schools for under-16s, imposed no mask mandate, and has no vaccine passport, then what exactly is everyone afraid of? And what is Nadhim Zahawi on about?

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