January 2, 2021
© Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The biggest overall issue of 2020 by far was the global reaction to Covid-19 and there is a prevailing belief that somehow 2021 will be automatically different because one digit in the year has changed. The world is waiting for this to all be “over”. But, perhaps the big question shouldn’t be when the Coronavirus issue ends but how it ends. This health crisis, just like any other, provides the catalyst for political change and has already left a bureaucratic mark on history. The potentially most interesting (or terrifying depending on your worldview) systemic change brought on by the virus would be the start of some sort of mandatory vaccination for travel. This concept, which was unthought of just a year ago, is being discussed in the Mainstream Media both positively and negatively with some governments already greenlighting the concept verbally. The Overton Window seems to be moving very quickly on this issue. But what will this new form of bureaucracy mean on a grander scale and since numerous different sources are creating a vaccine could a form of “geopolitics” of vaccination arise depending one which is taken?
Image: The vaccine you take could determine your travel future.
As of now the key form of bureaucracy for international travel is a passport based on citizenship. The proposed idea to only allow vaccinated individuals to travel will essentially create a second passport (regardless of what terminology is ascribed to it) based on an individual’s vaccination record. So, because this new vaccination proof documentation will essentially function as a passport we should first take a look at the geopolitical aspects of passports before we can take a look at the geopolitical aspects of vaccination.
The Passport Space We Know
Passports and visa regimes throughout the 20th century became a reflection of national power and created bureaucratic geopolitical spaces of their own. If we look at the “Global Passport Power Rank 2021” then we see that the top nations are not surprisingly in the West. The choice of using the word “power” when describing passports is very relevant.