The Moral Foundations of Vaccine Passports

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The debate around vaccine passports has been polarising and controversial. Although the measure allows businesses to resume in-person operations and enables transitioning out of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some have expressed concerns about liberty violations and discrimination. Understanding the splintered viewpoints can aid businesses in communicating such measures to employees and consumers. We conceptualise the business implementation of vaccine passports as a moral decision rooted in individual values that influence reasoning and emotional reaction. We surveyed support for vaccine passports on a nationally representative sample in the United Kingdom in 2021: April (n = 349), May (n = 328), and July (n = 311). Drawing on the Moral Foundations Theory—binding (loyalty, authority, and sanctity), individualising (fairness and harm), and liberty values—we find that individualising values are a positive predictor and liberty values a negative predictor of support for passports, suggesting adoption hinges on addressing liberty concerns. Longitudinal analysis examining the trajectory of change in support over time finds that individualising foundations positively predict changes in utilitarian and deontological reasoning over time. In contrast, a fall in anger over time predicts increased support towards vaccine passports. Our study can inform business and policy communication strategies of existing vaccine passports, general vaccine mandates, and similar measures in future pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2023


  • Business policy
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Moral foundations
  • Non-pharmaceutical intervention
  • Vaccine passport


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