With the advent of vaccines being made available to combat the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, some controversy exists surrounding a mechanism for people to demonstrate they have, in fact, been inoculated against this virus. The purpose of this article is to provide the basics of the divergent positions present with regard to 'vaccination passports' permitting you, the reader, with sufficient information so you may reach your own conclusions on this issue.
AGAINST THE PASSPORT
Led by the United States Federal Government (more particularly the Biden Administration) and the State of Texas, there is a push back against foreign countries that are requiring varying degrees of a 'proof of vaccination' for their citizens. In fact, both China and the European Union are moving forward with a full fledged vaccination passport system while the United Kingdom and Israel are moving forward with a green pass system for public venues.
On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in a regularly scheduled press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki definitively stated: "The government is not now nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential....There will be no federal vaccinations database, and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential." The concept of a 'vaccine passport' has faced resistance in the State of Texas with Governor Abbott issuing an Order on April 5, 2021 barring some businesses from requiring a 'proof of vaccination'.
A Federal vaccine passport system in the US would be hard to impose on its citizens. Data privacy, anti-discrimination, and technical issues are present to impede adoption of such a system here. At the heart of the matter is the potential for restraint of American's civil liberties absent such proof of vaccination by governmental mandate. With respect to data privacy the issue is clear - there is no absolute guarantee that a citizen's health record of vaccination would be held private and not disseminated to police, employers or immigration officials to be used for some other purpose.
Furthermore, the possibility of discrimination claims in our litigious society is imminent. Privileged populations have greater access to the vaccine itself leaving poor and racial minorities behind. By requiring 'vaccine passports' for all its citizens, disadvantaged sections of the population would be shut out of places, events, etc. thus creating the potential for discrimination claims.
Finally, there are technical concerns surrounding 'vaccine passports'. As always, there is the potential present for people to falsify information concerning administration of the vaccine to obtain a bogus 'passport'. Also, as different private entities and public agencies would be issuing the 'vaccine passports', there would be no uniformity in the passport information presented causing complications at the onset.
FOR THE PASSPORT
Private businesses, such as the corner pub, downtown coffeeshop and large sport's venues, have the ability to impose many restrictions on who they admit to their venue to transact business. As such, more particularly, large event venues, could deny admittance to those who do not possess a 'vaccination passport' or other proof of vaccination. The reasoning here is crystal clear - not only do these businesses owe you a duty to provide a safe environment, this duty extends to all customers of the business. So as to keep the venue virus free, businesses are entitled to require 'proof of vaccination' in the normal course of business.
Beyond customers of private businesses, the issue of 'proof of vaccination' could arise in the context of business employees. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) standards permit employers to require such things as vaccinations and the wearing of masks by employees as a condition of employment (subject to exception for religious beliefs, disability, or other underlying medical conditions). The reasoning here is likewise clear. Not only do businesses owe a duty to provide a safe environment for its customers, but they also must provide a safe working environment for all its employees. Additionally, employers must insure their products are safe for customer use and consumption requiring employers to mandate their employees be virus free.
On March 26, 2021, New York became the first state to adopt a voluntary virus credential system. The pilot program, developed by New York in conjunction with IBM, established what is called the 'Excelsior Pass'. The program allows citizens to upload their vaccine status (or alternatively their COVID-19 negative test results) and receive in return an official mobile document or printable QR code verifying the information supplied. The purpose of this pass, according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, is to permit large stadium venues to comply with the state mandate requiring said venues ensure that its staff and patrons received a negative virus test result within 72 hours of the scheduled event.
Parenthetically, it is worthy to note that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel industry, particularly international travel, has been devastated. For international travel to rebound, more people must be vaccinated and governments must be able to deem travel safe. 'Vaccine Passports' could go a long way in easing governmental concerns in that border restrictions would be eased through the loosening of testing requirements and quarantine mandates. There is presently a pent-up demand in the system for international travel due to feelings of safety provided by the COVID-19 vaccination. If a technological system of proof of vaccination could release some of the demand for travel, not only is there a benefit to the travel industry directly, but also a benefit is derived by dependent industries (tourist shops, restaurants, and the like).
What has been provided in this article is both sides of the coin concerning COVID-19 'Vaccination Passports'. Basically, it all boils down to a question of infringement of civil liberties on the one hand versus safety concerns on the other. As stated in the Introduction to this article, I leave it up to you, the reader, to decide your position on this important issue.
I am merely an ordinary small investor who likes to share what I've learned and found interesting. Please take a few minutes and check out my other published articles. I am not in any way a financial advisor and as such, do your own research before investing. If you enjoyed this article please like it, comment and/or tip. Feedback is always welcome here.