The COVID certificate has become one of the main tools in the management of the pandemic, especially as an incentive for the vaccination of those who are most reluctant, although its effectiveness in containing the transmission of the virus has been repeatedly questioned, especially after the emergence of the omicron variant and its ability to evade immune protection. This document, which certifies that its bearer has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has recovered from the disease or has a negative test; it is also essential to guarantee international mobility, both inside and outside the European Union.
In recent days, different Spanish autonomous communities have parked this measure, and will no longer ask for the health certificate to access places of leisure and other public establishments. This is the case of Catalonia, Asturias and Cantabria. Although others have ratified its use recently, such as Andalusia, Galicia, Valencian Community, Navarra, Basque Country or La Rioja. A third group made up of others such as Extremadura, Castilla y León, Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha they dispensed with this tool and are not using it.
From the first moment, the COVID passport has caused controversy, since vaccinated people, and also those who have previously overcome the infection, remain susceptible to infecting and transmitting the disease. In addition, it has been criticized that in spaces as sensitive from an epidemiological point of view as bars and restaurants, the certificate could even be counterproductive, since it would provide a false sense of security that would lead to relaxation of protection measures. The appearance of the omicron, and its explosive contagiousness, has only reinforced the contrary positions. However, there are also experts who continue to defend its use.
“Five times less risk of infection”
“What I haven’t quite seen is why specifically with ómicron the COVID certificate ceases to be useful. A measure makes sense or not regardless of the variant,” he tells RTVE.es Jaime Jesus Perez, member of the Spanish Association of Vaccinology (AEV). “If what we are referring to is that omicron escapes immunity and therefore there is no point in requiring the vaccine, last week the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an article that concluded that people with the booster dose have five times less risk of infection than those not vaccinated“, he emphasizes, which is why he points to the convenience that these certificates also “include the memory doses”.
“At a time of a pandemic wave as high as we have right now, I honestly do not think that removing measures of this type is justified. When the wave is over, just as you might take off your mask outdoors, which makes much less sense since an epidemiological point of view, perhaps also the certificate”, assures this specialist in preventive medicine, who emphasizes that “it is true that with omicron there is more immune escape, but it is also true that with a booster dose this escape is less important, and in a wave of such a high incidence, it is not convenient to remove measures that do not really harm anyone”.
Although other voices from the field of science question this measure. It is the case of Rafael Orti, president of the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Hygiene (SEMPSPH), who initially defended its use, but believes that now COVID certificate “starts to make less sense”. “With its advantages and disadvantages, before we postulated it because of the boost given to vaccination, and then we have also seen that it is a way of protecting the unvaccinated, since they are not allowed to enter places of risk, so this group benefits, in addition to other considerations, such as that it can continue to be requested in other parts of Europe, “he justifies, but believes that” that balance no longer exists”.
“We are already in a phase in which those who have not been vaccinated will hardly do so. In addition, the third and fourth doses are going to generate more controversy and perhaps it will be a source of conflict to demand them as a guideline to follow. “, he adds, to conclude that “it is a good time to withdraw” the health passport, because “he has already done his job.”
Yes, but in specific situations
But Ortí does contemplate that the use of this tool can remain for very specific situations. “Another thing is that there is a vaccination certificate, as there is for yellow fever, and that perhaps it does not have to be mandatory but it is recommended for certain activities of social life, such as working in a hospital, or in a residence healthcare, or to travel to an area with a special risk for whatever reason,” he assesses.
In this same line, Salvador Tranche, president of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine (semFYC), believes that the mandatory COVID certificate to access places of leisure and other public spaces “right now does not make any sense”. “Even when it was launched last time, from our society we already said that it seemed to us that it was a measure that could help promote vaccination, but obviously it does not ensure at any time that that person is not contagious or does not transmit the infection, so from the point of view of the transmission of the virus it has no use“, says this doctor.
For Tranche, its greatest advantage would be to encourage the most reluctant people, although it also points out that “in Spain we have such a high vaccination rate that it is already almost marginal who has not been vaccinated.” “At this point, people who have not been vaccinated is because they do not want to,” he says.