The Ethics Council discusses the introduction of proof of immunity. A provider has already launched one – and advertises with gaudy messages.
Next week, the Ethics Council will issue its ad hoc recommendation on the plans of Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) to introduce “proof of immunity” for people who have had SARS CoV-2 infection and are therefore immune to the disease could be.
It is the first meeting under the new chairwoman Elena Buyx, and for the medical ethicist like the other new members of the panel, the immunity certificate should be a difficult debut: after all, the advantages of an immunity passport are obvious, as are the ethically highly problematic implications for a society went along with it.
Now the discussion threatens to be overtaken in a way that neither Jens Spahn nor the Ethics Council could wish for. Because private providers seem the vague hope that many people have into an immunity passport to discover – for example the freedom to travel or to move freely in public spaces – as a business model.
And could significantly reduce public confidence in government measures to control pandemics, such as the corona tracing app.
Spahn’s push for an immunity passport was accommodated for the first time at the end of April in the cabinet’s draft of the “Second Law for the Protection of the Population in an Epidemic Situation of National Importance”. After violent protests, Spahn backed off and asked the ethics council at the beginning of May to comment on the plan – the law was passed on May 19 without the passage.
Proponents of the plan argue that the corona restrictions no longer have to apply to passport holders, meaning that at least parts of the population could be given freedom restrictions.
The opponents of the plan generally cite the same thing, only with different conclusions: They fear “discrimination and de-socialization”, as ex-Ethics Council leader Peter Dabrock put it, which already indicated in which direction the council is coming next week could plead.
The undisputed tracing app, which was presented earlier this week, also shows how sensitive the complex of issues is to be dealt with. For example, the Greens are demanding legal protection that ensures that the non-use of the app does not result in any personal disadvantages.
The passport is available as a PDF file
For such precautionary measures, it might now be too late for the immunity card. “Passport holders can live more freely again, plan trips abroad more securely and reduce the number of fatalities considerably” – with this gaudy message the well-established tele-incapacity certificate au-schein.de has been advertising its new offer since this week. Namely the “world’s first Covid 19 immunity passport”, which everyone has with a positive antibody test can order – the test is also available at au-schein.de
“The patient or his parents” would only have to fill out an online questionnaire, which would then be “checked by a tele-doctor”. The passport will then be sent as a PDF or in paper form, including a bracelet, the package should cost at least 29 euros. Resident doctors are also offered a test kit with a blank passport, from 19 euros upwards. The kits are approved by the American regulatory agency FDA, according to the press release that Tagesspiegel Background had previously received.
With the passport you can live without fear
The passport – which is in no way an official document of any recognized authority – can already be ordered on the website. When clicking on it is also pointed out that there is “currently no legally binding basis for the ID card”, but the basic promise is “Freedom for Immune!”.
With the passport you can “live free of fear again, visit your grandparents and plan trips abroad more safely”. And as soon as “the corona bans have been adjusted”, “you can move freely again without a mask”. The underlying antibody test comes from a laboratory in Berlin that also offers DNA tests, among other things for “personalized mueslis”.
Provider advertises with false promises
In the press release, au-Schein.de founder Can Ansay mentions the cabinet decision of late April, in which proof of immunity was still in the draft law – but not the subsequent deletion. The project is currently being examined by the “Ethics Council,” Ansay added. However, the committee only has the task of making a recommendation, which may then be incorporated into upcoming legislative proposals.
Ansay finally quotes too Minister of Health SpahnIn mid-May, “other states are already planning to make entry dependent on such proof of immunity in the future.” Ansay also refers to Norway, where travelers can prove their immunity or, if they cannot, quarantine. But that’s not true: Most Germans would currently not be able to enter Norway even with an immunity card, as this is only permitted in certain exceptional cases.
Some countries are discussing passport regulations
It is such uncertainties that providers of commercial “corona immunity passports” could rely on in the future. After all, there are countries that are discussing only allowing entry with such a passport. Corresponding ideas are available, for example, in China, the USA, Italy and Great Britain, and a passport is already being tested by the EU digital pioneer Estonia. Against this background, a lot is likely to happen on the provider side in the coming weeks.
Just yesterday, the Israeli digital company Pangea announced a Covid-19 immunity passport based on biometric data. Here, too, the promise is to enable countries to reopen airports “and at the same time to protect the population from the new occurrence of the virus”. However, Pangea offers itself as a service provider for states that want to develop a “biometric smartcard” as an immunity passport.
Providers are determined
Au-Schein.de boss Ansay sees himself in a different position, as he makes more than clear in the press release. “Corona bans” should not “also apply illegally to immune systems,” he writes. He was determined to “act through urgent lawsuits from our lawyer, who has already overturned several unlawful Corona regulations”.
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He countered the widespread fear that people could meet up for “corona parties” with the aim of obtaining an immunity passport with an idiosyncratic recommendation. “On the other hand, human experiments help through controlled infection, which experts also advise to research a vaccine more quickly.”
Soon also in the USA and France
Words of this kind dispel any doubts about the aggressiveness with which providers of “immunity passports” will penetrate the market in the coming weeks and months. Au-schein.de wants, it says in the press release, soon to offer its “IDs” in the USA and France via the portals arretmaladie.fr and drnote.com. “To set global quality standards made in Germany.”
The Federal Ministry of Health has so far only spoken briefly about the offer of au-schein.de. “The minister had repeatedly emphasized that patients can already have test results documented,” said a spokesman. The ethics council is currently examining the ethical implications of ID, “and the BMG will evaluate this analysis”.