22 April 2020 – Policy Brief

Ethical, legal, and social issues associated with “serological passports”

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The Scientific task force was tasked with refining aspects of possible transition strategies. The Ethical, legal, and social group examined examined the ethical, legal, and social aspects of serological passports.

Executive summary

The Ethical, legal, and social group of the Scientific task force concludes that as long as scientific uncertainty in identifying immunity and its duration persists, such passports should not be used as they restrict human rights, create societal dangers, and cannot be justified by a legitimate public interest. Before the state can use serological passports, or link legal consequences to their possession, we must be certain that they actually document immunity, and we must know more about the extent and duration of the immunity they document. As long as this is not the case, extreme caution seems to be the only option.

If scientific uncertainty could be lifted, a number of ethical and legal rules would need to be in place to enable a justifiable implementation of immunity certificates. These rules would need to eliminate or at least substantially mitigate harms to persons, and guarantee equal rights, including the right to access testing, and protect solidarity. Mandatory testing would require a legal basis, as would the processes to establish serological passports. The federal data protection officer should be included into all plans about establishing special health documents, as should the Swiss national advisory commission on biomedical ethics. Given the proliferation of tests, including home-testing, accreditation for serological testing would also need to be legally regulated. The government must also provide enough support for those who cannot profit from the privileges conferred by serological passports.

Strict limitations on the scope and duration of serological passports would need to be implemented from their inception onwards.

Date of request:
Date of response: 22/4/2020

In response to request from:

Comment on planned updates:

Expert groups and individuals involved: Ethical, legal, social

Contact persons: samia.hurst@unige.ch