Vaccine passports come with pitfalls, promise

Vaccine passports already exist.

International travelers have long known about the yellow card known as the “International Certificate of Vaccination,” which serves as documentation that a traveler is vaccinated against diseases such as yellow fever. Now there is discussion that as the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis that similar vaccine passports may be required for travelers to show they’ve been vaccinated against the virus.

For its part, the Biden administration has said it has no intention of issuing such cards or compiling vaccine information from citizens. But other counties may require the cards, and the U.S. could expand its screening of international travelers as they enter the country.

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In addition, private companies may start to require proof of vaccination from patrons.

“There are so many questions that haven’t been answered,” said Courtney Joslin, a resident fellow at the R-Street Institute. “There are concerns that we could have a poorly developed program and then you could run to all sorts of issues from data privacy and your health information, to access issues where people (who) do not have access to the vaccine now do not have access to a vaccine passport.”

On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed executive action against such passports, saying, “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 participate in normal society.”

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While DeSantis expressed concerns about privacy as well, it’s unclear what he could do to limit private businesses or sovereign nations from requiring proof of vaccination.

“One of the most realistic and best case scenarios would be to leave this up to individual businesses, whether they want to require proof of vaccine or not, because then by leaving it up to them that is less infringing on people’s ability to conduct their daily lives,” said Joslin.

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