The use of so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passports” is quickly becoming a divisive issue across the US – with several states, including New York, embracing the idea, while others have already moved to ban them.
Last month, New York became the first state in the nation to formally launch a digital vaccine passport for Empire State residents to verify that they’ve been immunized against the coronavirus.
The state’s program, dubbed the “Excelsior Pass,” allows New Yorkers to prove their vaccination status, or a recent negative COVID-19 test, in order to gain entry to events and businesses.
Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden and the Times Union Center in Albany have already begun using the app. Smaller arts, entertainment and event venues are also expected to utilize the pass, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has said.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige told reporters Monday that his state is testing the technology needed for a vaccine passport, but that there is still more work that needs to be done.
“[Vaccination passports] won’t happen for at least four weeks or so,” the Democrat said, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has also said that he supports passports, but added that they should not be required to enter an event or facility.
“As long as it is your choice,” Pritzker told reporters, according to Patch.com. “If people ask you to show that for a particular venue or private venue, they have the ability and right to do that. You don’t have to show that to them. You don’t have to be to go to that venue or be engaged in that activity.”
Meanwhile, leaders in a slew of states — including Florida, Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri and Nebraska — have already expressed fierce opposition to any use of vaccine passports within their borders.
On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies or organizations that receive state funds from requiring COVID-19 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. That is why I have issued an Executive Order that prohibits government-mandated vaccine passports in Texas,” Abbott said in a statement. “We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health — and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a similar executive order last week.
“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,” DeSantis has said.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he was opposed to “state-mandated” vaccine passports on Tuesday.
“I do not and will not support any kind of state-mandated vaccine passport. While the development of multiple safe, highly effective COVID-19 vaccines has been a scientific miracle, the decision to receive the vaccine should be left up to each individual,” Kemp said on Twitter.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee also expressed his disapproval of vaccine passports Tuesday.
“I oppose vaccine passports. The COVID-19 vaccine should be a personal health choice, not a government requirement,” Lee tweeted.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said in a tweet late last month that the Cornhusker State “will not participate in any vaccine passport program.”
“This concept violates two central tenets of the American system: freedom of movement and healthcare privacy,” Ricketts railed.
The Biden administration has said that it is working to create a set of standards for the many private companies making their own versions of passports — but will not make or require its own federal version.
“The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday.
“There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”