The coronavirus in the United States has just passed a grim milestone; one year and one month. But people across the country are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel—the vaccination rollout is happening at extraordinary speeds. Reminiscent of the World War II industrial boom, the pharmaceutical industry has pushed every possible resource to try to meet first the orders of former President Donald Trump, and now President Joseph Biden.
As a result, vaccines are rolling out faster and to more people than even the rosiest predictions offered. But the vaccination wave brings one major question: Will vaccination passports become required to engage with businesses and events? Two states have answered that questions at the very top with a resounding “no!”
What is a Vaccine Passport?
A vaccine passport is basically what it sounds like; proof that a person has received the full set or single dose shot of COVID-19 vaccinations, rendering them as low a risk to the public as possible. A vaccine passport would provide succinct access to proof that an individual has been vaccinated, and theoretically allow them access to events wishing to keep unvaccinated people out.
Countries around the world have announced such a system in recent months. In China, a digital version of the passport was unveiled last month. In the United States, biotech companies have been racing to provide a way for people to log their status electronically and easily provide it in situations where they need to do so. Currently those situations are mostly limited to international travel.
However, some American citizens have become concerned that the vaccine passports will amount to discrimination. If people choose not to get vaccinated, they may not have access to certain businesses or venues, a possibility which many people find frightening and worrisome.
What Did Texas and Florida Do?
As a result of these concerns, governors in Florida and Texas have taken the sobering step of banning the vaccine passports prophylacticly. In Florida, Governor DeSantis remarked last week per CNN, “‘Individual Covid-19 vaccination records are private health information and should not be shared by a mandate,’ DeSantis’ executive order reads. DeSantis signaled earlier this week that he would not support vaccine passports. ‘It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,’ he said Monday during a press conference.”
The Florida mandate prohibits any government entity from issuing vaccine passports and blocks businesses from requiring any such documentation.
Quickly on Florida’s heels, the Governor of Texas Greg Abbott followed suit today with a ban. NBC reports, “The order states that no government agency can mandate an individual receive a Covid-19 vaccination or enforce any policy that requires a person to provide proof of vaccination in order to receive services. It also states that any institution, public or private, that receives government funds cannot deny someone for failing to provide proof of vaccination.”
NBC adds, “In a video announcement, Abbott said that Texans are returning to ‘normalcy’ as vaccination efforts increase and hailed the state for administering more than 13 million doses to residents so far. The Republican governor then said that vaccination efforts should be done ‘without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.’
‘But, as I have said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced,’ Abbott said. ‘Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives.’”
Both Texas and Florida have laws requiring children to receive and provide proof of vaccination before attending public schools, but the COVID vaccine appears a bridge too far for the pair of governors.
Celebrities Have Leapt at Chance for Vaccine
Although many Americans are hesitant to receive the vaccine and some are outright refusing to even consider it, many celebrities have already embraced their opportunities to do so. Per Grazia, vaccinated celebrities include:
- Mariah Carey
- Dolly Parton
- Michelle Obama
- Kim Cattrall
- Jonathan Van Ness
- Jane Fonda
- Amy Schumer
- Dalai Lama
- Jeff Goldblum
- Bill Gates
- Rosario Dawson.
Many more have signaled intent to receive theirs, a move which has been celebrated by industry peers who have been out of work over the past year due to lockdowns. California’s vaccination rate has been high, allowing big cities like Los Angeles to slowly unfurl and industries long-shuttered to come to life.
Dr Fauci’s Statement on Vaccine Passports Offers Direction
Despite the concern about vaccine passports, the White House has signaled that there’s currently no plan to issue a federal vaccine passport program or encourage the use of one. On a podcast called Politico Dispatch, Dr. Anthony Fauci offered some comfort for those concerned.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, Fauci has spearheaded the nation’s response to COVID since the early days under President Trump’s orders. ClickOrlando reports Fauci’s words on his podcast appearance; “‘I’m not saying that they should or that they would, but I’m saying you could foresee how an independent entity might say, ‘Well, we can’t be dealing with you unless we know you’re vaccinated.’ But it’s not going to be mandated from the federal government,’ Fauci said.”
Proponents of the passports argue that public health trumps individual freedom and it’s vital to have the ability to establish vaccination status. Opponents maintain that they have the right to refuse the vaccine—as they currently do – and the freedom to use the same businesses and access the same public locations as anyone else. In a nation that has been deeply divided over the past few years, this new rumble over vaccine passports is a worrying sign that the strain remains. However, if Fauci’s promise on behalf of the White House holds true, vaccine passports will likely remain limited to international travel and certain private businesses.