Vaccine Passports, Mandates, Badges and the Emergence of the Bio-Apartheid State


Saturday, August 21, 2021 / 08:36 PM / OpEd By Ahmed Olayinka Sule, CFA* / Header Image Credit: The ColumbusDispatch

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After the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, governments, scientists and pharmaceutical companies collaborated to develop a vaccine against the virus. As more people get COVID vaccinated, we are witnessing the emergence of a bio-apartheid world where people are discriminated against and segregated based on their vaccination status. The bio-apartheid state manifests in various forms, including but not limited to the deployment of vaccine passports, vaccine mandates, vaccine badges and mockery. 


After Apartheid was introduced in South Africa, a hierarchical society emerged with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom. Between 1800 and 1994, the apartheid regime promulgated a series of Pass Laws. These laws restricted the movements of black South Africans and controlled their rights to housing. With governments worldwide deploying vaccine passports to different areas of human endeavour, the segregation between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated is becoming more glaring.


In July 2021,  France announced an ambitious vaccine digital health pass scheme which allows only fully vaccinated people and those who have passed a covid test to enter restaurants, cafes, bars, museums, theatres, cultural events, shopping centres, trains, planes and buses for long-distance journeys. In New York, having a vaccine passport is a prerequisite to entering some sporting stadiums like the Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. Paradoxically, in July 2021, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, which aims to foster an appreciation for the importance of human rights, announced that it would only be open to vaccinated customers. The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that from September 2021, only double vaccinated people will be allowed into nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather in England.


Vaccine badges and stickers are also being deployed to distinguish the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. The President of the Green Liberals in Switzerland, Juerg Grossen, suggested that hospital workers should wear a vaccine badge to show their vaccination status. Ballad Health, a Tennessee based integrated healthcare system, announced a  vaccine colour coded badge scheme to differentiate its vaccinated employees from those unvaccinated. According to a Ballad Health official, it will allow employees "a quick, direct method" of identifying which co-workers have been vaccinated."


During the Jim Crow and Apartheid era, those who violated the segregation laws were subjected to imprisonment, fines, deportation, revocation of citizenship, lynching or floggings. If vaccine badges are the carrots of the bio-apartheid state, then vaccine mandates are the stick. In the Global North, government officials and businesses deploy vaccine mandates to coerce those hesitant to get vaccinated by threatening their economic base. For example, Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York, mandated 340,000 municipal staff to be vaccinated or start weekly testing. He also said unvaccinated city employees must wear a mask indoors or face the sack. In the NFL, any unvaccinated player that leaves the team hotel or interacts with people outside the organization could face a fine of $50,000. Furthermore, unvaccinated NFL players cannot eat meals with their colleagues or use the steam room. Google and Facebook have indicated that their workers can only return to the office if they are vaccinated. Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer Board member, told CNBC that he expects "Businesses and organizations to take a more authoritative position on vaccination requirements once full regulatory approval is given."


In Apartheid South Africa and Jim Crow America, pejorative remarks were often used against those considered unworthy. In today's bio-apartheid and bio-Jim Crow world, a vocabulary of pejorative terms such as covidiots, refuseniks, conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers is used to describe the unvaccinated. It is not unusual to see politicians, business leaders, and celebrities disparaging or blaming the unvaccinated. Piers Morgan, the English broadcaster, wrote that the unvaccinated should be refused treatment if they contract covid. President Macron accused the unvaccinated of killing others "Through their irresponsibility" and egoism." Jennifer Aniston, the actress recently said she had cut ties with her friend's who are not vaccinated.


Supporters of the bio-apartheid state have many reasons for their stance:

  1. They argue that the unvaccinated are the ones who are spreading the virus.
  2. The assumption that those who are hesitant of taking the vaccine are right-wing conspiracy theorists.
  3. Some point to immunity passport /certificates used in the past, such as the yellow fever card.
  4. Others note that the only way to end Covid is for private companies to require vaccines for their employees.
  5. A few advocates suggest that in times of global emergency, infringement on liberty is necessary.

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The claim that the unvaccinated are the only ones spreading the virus cannot withstand analysis. The vaccinated can still spread the virus; after all, there have been several instances whereby people who have had the vaccine are still getting infected with Covid. According to data collected by NBC News, at least 125,000 fully vaccinated Americans have tested positive for Covid, out of which 1,400 have died. In addition, the CDC Director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, said that fully vaccinated people are not just contracting Covid-19 but could potentially infect others.


Not everyone sceptical of taking the Covid vaccine is a right-winging, anti-vaxxing conspiracy theorist. Instead, people are hesitant for several reasons, such as religious considerations, exemption from liability for vaccine manufacturers, limited trial testing period, reported deaths and adverse side effects from taking the vaccine, corruption in the award of covid contracts, the continuous mutation of the virus that defy vaccines and the use of animal testing.


Crusaders for the vaccine passport often use a false equivalence by comparing it to cholera or yellow fever vaccination card usually required before travelling to certain countries. However, the Covid vaccine passport in its present form differs as it seeps into everyday living. 


The logic that the solution to ending COVID-19 is by employers enforcing mandates on their employees or governments infringing on civil liberty is spurious. Discriminating against employees due to their vaccination contravenes UNESCO's Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. The declaration protects individuals from undergoing coerced medical interventions without their prior, free and informed consent. Furthermore, Paragraph 7.3 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Resolution 2361 states that member states should "Ensure that citizens are informed that the vaccination is not mandatory and that no one is under political, social or other pressure to be vaccinated if they do not wish to do so."


Just as Jim crow and Apartheid discriminated against blacks, present-day vaccinism will end up disproportionately discriminating against a higher number of black and brown people around the world.  As Western countries link vaccination to border control, it indirectly closes its border to many black and brown populated countries. So far, only 15% of the global population has been fully vaccinated.


When the Covid pandemic first emerged, our shared humanity came to light as the global community united in the face of a dangerous enemy. However, with the development of the COVID vaccine, a two-tier society has emerged with the unvaccinated relegated to second class citizens. Thus, the war against COVID has morphed into a war against the unvaccinated. As the vaccinated and unvaccinated become ever more socially distanced, families and friendships are being torn apart.  


The gradual move towards the illiberal bio-apartheid state is gaining momentum, and like Apartheid and Jim Crow, it has its fair share of cheerleaders. However, if the proponents and cheerleaders of the bio-apartheid state study the history of suppression, they will realize that creating an underclass eventually leads to social tension that threatens lasting peace.


About the Author

Ahmed Olayinka Sule is a CFA Charterholder, photojournalist and social critic. He is an Alumnus of the University of Arts, London; where he obtained a Certificate in Photojournalism. He has worked on various photojournalism projects including Obama: The Impact, Jesus Christ: The Impact, The Williams Sisters etc. He can be contacted via e-mail at 

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Previous Articles by The Author

1.       Rejoinder: Classism is Social Activists' Forgotten Prejudice - Ahmed Sule -Dec 23, 2020

2.       #EndSars Protest Movement A Watershed Moment in the Quest for Genuine Change in Nigeria - Oct 15, 2020

3.      The Neoliberal Hijack of the Anti-Black Racial Campaign: Timeo Danaos et Dona Ferentes - Jul 17, 2020

4.      BAME Cabinet Ministers: Modern-day Courtiers or Jesters? Jun 22, 2020

5.      Why the Global South Should Temper Expectations ... Ahmed Sule  Apr 29, 2020

6.      The Case Against Nigeria's Big Philanthropy Industrial Complex (NBPIC)   - Ahmed Sule, May 27, 2020

7.      An Appeal to the Soul of VP Yemi Osinbajo: Please End the Climate of Tyranny - Ahmed Sule - Dec 08, 2019

8.     An Open Letter to Theresa May by Ahmed Sule, CFA - Mar 03, 2019

9.      The Betrayal of The 21st Century Nigerian Intelligentsia - Jan 14, 2019

10.  Time for A Revolution says FT Editor; Publishes Ahmed Sule's... - Oct 18, 2018

11.   It's Time for the Financial Times to Discover the Rest of the World - Oct 12, 2018

12.  Re: Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2018 - Apr 23, 2018

13.  The Big Read: How to Spot The 21st Century Uncle Tom - Proshare - Nov 03, 2017

14.  #SharapovaGate: A Case Study on White Privilege - Proshare Mar 10, 2016

15.  Are Nigerian Banks Committing Crimes Against Humanity? - Oct 01, 2012

16.  Why Poverty Continues to Prevail in Our World ... - Apr 17, 2012  

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