Claim: Vaccine opponents' fears of implantable chips have been proven right with the announcement of an implantable vaccine passport, possibly indicating the coming of the antichrist.
Reality: A small company is promoting the capacity of their pre-existing chips to bring up vaccine passports on phones placed nearby. It has no government endorsement, let alone compulsion.
In a public relations nightmare for scientists and a gift to anti-vaxxers, a Swedish startup has proposed to incorporate vaccine passports into scannable implants. The technology is very different from the fictitious trackers that conspiracy theorists have claimed will be incorporated in vaccines for the last two years – however, the two sound similar enough that “we told you so” posts are already starting. Although designed to make it easier for vaccinated people to prove it, many fear the publicity around this will make it harder to persuade the vaccine-hesitant.
Dsruptive Subdermals market 2 millimeter by 14 millimeter (0.08 by 0.55 inch) implants that can be inserted under the skin and read by a scanner. Having failed to find many markets for previous uses of the implants, they are now promoting their capacity to send readers to a pdf of vaccine status. "I have a chip implant in my arm, and I have programmed the chip so that I have my COVID passport on the chip, and the reason is that I always want to have it accessible," the company's managing director Hannes Sjöblad told AFP.
Sjöblad has been pushing the idea of inserting microchips into humans for at least three years. “These chip implants are not a new phenomenon, and we've been putting them in animals for decades, so this is tested technology," he told ABC News back in 2018. At the time, he predicted the technology would be “everywhere” within a year or two, something that notably didn't happen.
Unlike (non-marsupial) pets, however, humans usually have pockets on our clothing, in which we can keep cards and a phone that can perform the same function as an implanted chip, so the advantage is much less clear.
Sjöblad's implants are compatible with many card reading devices, and he has installed features such as his Swedish railway pass on his implant. The vaccine passport is just the latest addition. “If I go to the movies or go to a shopping center, then people will be able to check my status even if I don't have my phone," Sjöblad said to AFP. The chip can only be read in very close proximity, not used to track a location.
Sjöblad argues he's never in danger of losing his chip and doesn't need to worry about leaving the house without it. He runs “implant parties” where he promotes the idea, comparing the procedure to getting a piercing.
Inevitably, not everyone is so taken with the idea. An implant enthusiast lost a court case when he tried to use a similar chip for Sydney's public transport system.
Sjöblad rejects making the implants compulsory, but inevitably there are fears that's where this push will take us. If most people adopt the idea, the argument goes, companies or governments may refuse to accept evidence in traditional card form, shutting those without an implant out of modern life.
We're a long way from that, however, and adoption is likely to be much slower than Sjöblad expects. Aside from those worried about the pain, the 100 Euro price ($112) tag will be off-putting to many. And of course, even those who like the convenience may see the idea of being permanently readable as a bug, not a feature.
Even if such chips remain a tiny niche market, however, it's almost inevitable anti-vaccination campaigners will use the idea to promote fear. Indeed it has started already.
Just when Omicron might convince some people who have resisted getting vaccinated that it's time to put their fears aside, the association with a microchip implant may cause them to back away.