COVID travelling across Europe was not that much of a hassle. In almost all cases showing our CDC cards as proof of full vaccination was sufficient. In a few places we had to turn to rapid tests as well to be able to enter and dine indoors.
In Portugal and then again in Germany we heard anecdotal stories of a certain mistrust in the CDC paper cards because allegedly a number of Americans traveling in Europe had been found to be carrying forged or falsified vaccine cards. We could not understand the thinking and rationalization that went behind anyone doing that. How could someone go to all the effort to do that, and not think about actually getting vaccinated?
Have you ever interacted with anti vaxxers? I know someone from high school who is an anti vaxxer leader, and in their case it seemed that their sincere beliefs were all tied up with the bad science and falsified claims of this British doctor who was ultimately disbarred or whatever the equivalent is for British medicine.
Of course, those who are vaccine hesitant today are a mixed lot. There are of course some political extremists who are caught up with the conspiracy theorists and hypocritical lies of the American political right and “Fox News,” who love to use malicious lies about the COVID vaccines despite themselves having surreptitiously been vaccinated. There are others who have chosen to ignore the lengthy history of vaccinations and vaccine requirements for decades and been caught up in the polemics around this particular vaccine. There are others who perhaps have been unnerved by the speed and process of the development of the vaccines during 2020 and have worried if adequate safety testing had really been done. Some people of color have no doubt hesitated because of past racist abuses which have been unearthed and voiced to raise red flags.
But it seems to require a particular type of mentality and cynicism to be fabricating and seeking phony vaccine cards. I haven’t seen the numbers and whether this has really been extensive or not among American travelers to Europe. But it has been enough anecdotally to cause some alarm among a few European AirBnb hosts and restaurant managers, within an EU milieu which has been carefully increasing the use of online digital certifications and QR codes on peoples’ phones.
From our point of view, it has been convenient and helpful that almost all European venues have ultimately accepted our CDC cards, but it has also been amazing how tied up in knots of incompetence and policy misdirection the reverse has been true: that even fully vaccinated Europeans have largely not been able to travel to the USA just yet. This despite the unjustifiable reality that a higher percentage of many European countries are fully vaccinated compared to the struggling levels in the United States, which seems to have been stuck at just below 60% for the longest time.
And even more touching for us in the wider context is the continuing reality of vaccine inequity – the surfeit of vaccine availability in the wealthiest countries where so many countries have struggled to be able to purchase or obtain enough vaccine for their populations. This vaccine inequity is of course just one additional characteristic of an economic self-defeating inequity. As Lawrence O’Donnell and others have cogently repeated: energetically vaccinating the rest of the world in this pandemic spread of variants is not charity but self-defense. What goes around comes around. The increased impoverishment, marginalization and hunger in many nations in my mind should be turning on warning lights and alarms all over – how can this not end up feeding increased polarization, extremism and radicalization around the world? And how can we, as the poster child for wasted and ill utilized excess abundance, not be a primary target for that radicalization some day?