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Humanities & Social Sciences Communications ; 8(1), 2021.
Article in English | ProQuest Central | ID: covidwho-1440505


In responding to the widespread impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have proposed and implemented documentation policies that confer varying levels of freedoms or restrictions (e.g., ability to travel) based on individuals’ infection status or potential immunity. Most discussions around immunity- or infection-based documentation policies have focused on scientific plausibility, economic benefit, and challenges relating to ethics and equity. As COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out, attention has turned to confirmation of immunity and how documentation such as vaccine certificates or immunity passports can be implemented. However, the contextual inequities and local variabilities interacting with COVID-19 related documentation policies hinder a one-size-fits-all approach. In this Comment, we argue that social science perspectives can and should provide additional insight into these issues, through a diverse range of current and historical examples. This would enable policymakers and researchers to better understand and mitigate current and longer-term differential impacts of COVID-19 immunity-based documentation policies in different contexts. Furthermore, social science research methods can uniquely provide feedback to inform adjustments to policy implementation in real-time and help to document how these policy measures are felt differently across communities, populations, and countries, potentially for years to come. This Comment, updated as of 15 August 2021, combines precedents established in historical disease outbreaks and current experiences with COVID-19 immunity-based documentation policies to highlight valuable lessons and an acute need for further social science research which should inform effective and context-appropriate future public health policy and action.