President Joe Biden’s administration has reached out to the private sectors to coordinate their attempts to develop vaccine passports. The initiative follows Biden’s executive order in January directing agencies to assess the feasibility of creating a unified and digital system for the vaccine passports, known as “international certificates of vaccination or prophylaxis.”
European Union leaders have backed the introduction of a “digital green certificate” while some countries inside and outside the bloc have already announced plans for vaccine passports.
The certificate is digital proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from the disease. Anyone with the EU’s version of vaccine passport can travel across all 27 member states. The EU also wants to include non-EU countries such as Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
In February, Denmark announced that it would launch a vaccine passport by that month’s end. Its move followed neighboring Sweden’s requirement for a negative COVID-19 test result for anyone who entered the country.
Danish Minister of Taxation Morten Bødskov said on Feb. 3 that a simple form of this vaccine passport would be rolled out by Feb. 28. A full digital passport is set to follow after a development period of two to three months.
Dubbed “Coronapas,” Denmark initially plans to use its vaccine passport domestically and later for international travel.
Denmark already has a secure digital ID system called NemID, to which the Coronapas will be linked. NemID gives Danes access to various online platforms, including a digital listing of an individual’s health records and test results.
Israel, the first country to inoculate the majority of its population, has also implemented a vaccine passport. Its “green pass” program started on Feb. 21.
Vaccinated Israelis can download an app that displays their green pass and links them to their personal health ministry data. Green pass is also available as a paper certificate. They have to show the green pass to access facilities such as hotels, gyms or theatres.
Vaccine passport gaining popularity among private sector executives
The concept of a vaccine passport has gained popularity among private sector executives, as many companies want to prevent unvaccinated people from entering their facilities.
Many are considering making vaccine passports a requirement to enter movie theaters, restaurants, music and sports venues and cruise ships. (Related: Royal Caribbean to ban unvaccinated adults from cruise ships this June, turning their cruise ships into floating super strain factories.)
Andy Slavitt, a senior advisor to the White House’s coronavirus response team, said on Monday, March 29, that the private sector is leading the effort to create the unified vaccine passport database. The Biden administration will provide guidance on the matter, but will not own any kind of vaccination data.
“This is going to hit all parts of society, and so naturally, the government is involved,” said Slavitt. “We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do. What’s important to us – and we’re leading an interagency process right now to go through the details – is that some important criteria be met with these credentials.”
Slavitt and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the criteria would include making sure that all Americans would not have any barriers preventing them from signing up for their own vaccine passports, including technological barriers.
Psaki added that the White House will work with companies to make the passports “private and secure.”
Critics say vaccine passport “creates egregious disparities and inequities”
Many Americans think that requiring a vaccine passport in order to work or travel violates their privacy. They question the legality of discriminating against people based on their private health information. (Related: Former Clinton adviser warns that vaccine passports could lead to “end of human liberty.”)
According to critics like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), vaccine passports unfairly benefit people who are more affluent, as these are the people who are more likely to be vaccinated and have the technology that can support digital certificates.
This will create egregious disparities and inequities for already marginalized communities, ACLU said. Those without vaccine passports are also likely to be banned from social gatherings like concerts and sports events, essentially rendering them “second-class” citizens.
Republicans are also resisting the implementation of vaccine passports. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is promising to take executive action to prevent any attempt to make them a requirement in the state.
“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,” said DeSantis.
In Ohio, Republican State Reps. Al Cutrona and Mike Loychik have pledged to co-sponsor legislation that would prohibit any entity from making vaccine passports a requirement for entering an area or establishment.
“A vaccine should not be mandated or required by our government for our people to integrate back to a sense of normalcy,” said Cutrona in a statement on Tuesday, March 30. “We’ve had restrictions on our freedoms for over a year and more restrictions or mandates are not the answer to every issue related to COVID-19.”
House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana told Fox News that, if Democrats continue to push for vaccine IDs, “they now have zero grounds to object to voter ID laws.”