Story at a glance
- Several states, as well as businesses, are exploring the possibility of using identification to determine people’s vaccine status.
- The Biden administration has said it will not play any role in a “vaccine passport” system.
- Critics are concerned that the identification could be used to discriminate against some Americans or violate their privacy.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the “United” States have been increasingly fragmented in their approach to public health. Now, as New York experiments with a digital vaccine passport, other states are pushing back.
Experts say the idea is likely legal, the New York Times reported, citing the decision in the 1905 case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts that "a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members."
There is also international precedent set by the World Health Organization, which has previously required proof of vaccination against yellow fever.
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But legal doesn't always mean popular ,and the proposal is already being met by criticism from Republican governors, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who issued an executive order prohibiting vaccine passports.
"Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives," Abbott said in a statement.
The Biden administration has ruled out the federal government playing any role or supporting "a system that requires Americans to carry a credential," saying that "American's privacy and rights should be protected."
This hasn’t stopped businesses from starting their own initiatives, however. Cathay Pacific airlines is trying out a new mobile app showing their vaccine status, while Walmart is offering electronic verification apps to patients vaccinated in its stores. Still, most industries haven't come to a consensus.
“Without a government mandate, the decision for when and how to verify vaccine status should be left up to restaurant owners to determine what is best for their business and to clearly communicate that with their employees and customers,” Larry Lynch, senior vice president of science and industry at the National Restaurant Association, told the Hill.
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