A few hours ago, the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, announced her intention to set up a “COVID-19 experimental primer project” (sic) which would simulate the international vaccination record.
The goal, according to him, is have some sort of identification that guarantees that the disease has passed. However, this idea is not new and is not scientifically supported. In addition, the concept of immune passport has already been proposed in several countries, including Germany, and has not been adopted anywhere for a very simple question: it does not make sense.
COVID-19 mandatory mask and primer
As announced by Díaz Ayuso, during the appearance of this Tuesday, July 28, the use of masks will be compulsory throughout the Community of Madrid in order to reduce the increase in infections which is already observed with concern in this region and in other regions of Spain. In addition to this measure, the president stated her intention to limit nightlife and restrict meetings to a maximum of 10 people. The icing on the cake, he called for the adoption of a “COVID-19 primer”.
This would correspond to an experimental project and that would be ready from September. The primer would work like the international vaccination, which broadly indicates which vaccines we have received and which we do not. This card would be integrated into the virtual health card of all residents of Madrid who have undergone a PCR test to detect the past presence of the virus.
The idea is that This card makes “much easier access to gymnasiums, museums and closed spaces”, as the president warned. In principle, anyone can ask to have a PCR test to find out if they have immune samples against the virus, which would indicate that the disease has passed and cannot come back. And that’s where the problems with this idea begin.
WHO advises against using an immune passport
As we said, this concept is not new. It was already considered in March, well before the start of de-escalation, in several countries. The goal was to be able to streamline the process of revitalization and return to routine, especially in stores, to mitigate the economic impact. However, such an idea was quickly discarded for purely technical and scientific reasons.
The WHO itself issued a statement on the matter last April. The implementation of this measure has been completely discouraged. In short, a PCR test, as we know, is useful to know if you are infected during the infection window. There can be no assurance that we can confirm a past infection and that it is not a false positive.
We are also not sure or strong evidence of recurrence of the disease. In other words, that a positive PCR could occur, indicating that the disease has passed, and iron it in the future. This is because no one is 100% sure that we can build long-term immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
As if that wasn’t enough, at this point we already know of several strains of this virus. As with the flu, the illness can be recurring and already. How valid is a patch that implies that we have passed the disease if we could deal with a different strain in the following days? These are just a few of the scientific issues that have caused Germany, for example, to back down on the use of this immune passport. But are not the only ones.
More dangers than advantages
There are also issues that could turn this proposal into a ticking time bomb. For example, what if a person wants to enjoy the benefits of the primer and manages to get infected? Not only is she putting herself in danger, but everyone in contact. AND what happens to people outside of Madrid? Will it be possible to do a test, and an introduction, outside the Community?
Another of the big questions surrounding this problem is the implicit discrimination it implies: generates a division between first-class citizens, with all privileges, and the other second-class, who are not immune and therefore cannot exercise all freedoms. On the other hand, what happens to people who have not been tested? Whether they have passed the disease or not, they will continue in this second class we were talking about.
Testing doesn’t come cheap. Today this type of test, by PCR or serological, they are carried out by private health care and not everyone is eligible. As if all of the above was not enough, the tests fail and their interpretations are far from conclusive at this point. This is not to mention the terrible inconsistency that this implies in the law on data protection.
Either way, no matter how you look at it, nothing seems to endorse the use of a COVID-19 primer, neither from a scientific nor from a social point of view. As we have said several times already, this is not even a novel idea. It was previously discarded. We still have to wait to see if this will happen and, if so, what implications it will have for society.
Images | Unsplash
Source : Engadget