They are finally here.
New York is officially the first state to launch a so-called “vaccine passport” program, empowering various businesses and public entities to easily deny residents service on the basis of whether or not they have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
The “Excelsior Pass” program bills itself as a “free, fast and secure way to present digital proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results” with either a smartphone app that displays a scannable QR code or a code printed on a sheet of paper. While New Yorkers are not yet legally required to participate, business owners and venue operators have the option of denying entry to people without one.
Notably, despite being billed as a way to return life to normal, the website says that “once you and your party enter an establishment, you will still be asked to follow State and CDC guidance regarding social distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene” despite verifying one’s immunity or negative coronavirus status.
“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID, and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure,” Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, the Associated Press reports.
Officials of the Empire State claim that blockchain and encryption technology will ensure the security of users’ private data, but critics on both sides of the political aisle are warning that the passports may be the first step in a much broader encroachment of personal liberty:
Fortunately, at least one state is fighting back.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday he will be taking executive action to ban the use of vaccine passports in the Sunshine State, and called on the legislature to enshrine a similar ban in state statutes.
“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 declared.
Despite medical authorities’ endorsement of the various COVID-19 shots, concerns persist thanks in part to public health officials’ contradictory guidance on every aspect of the pandemic over the past year, from masks to lockdowns to social distancing, and partly due to the fact that they were developed and released in roughly a tenth of the time it usually takes to develop, test, and review vaccines.
Apart from health concerns, some of the COVID-19 vaccines carry ethical concerns for many, particularly religious and pro-life Americans, due to the use of cells derived from aborted babies in the development process. To help pro-lifers make an informed decision, the Charlotte Lozier Institute has released a detailed breakdown of all the various COVID-19 vaccines in development and which ones used or did not use abortion-derived cells at any stage of the process.
Yesterday the Washington Post reported that the Biden White House is working with private companies to launch vaccine passports. A recent meeting about vaccine passports featured more than 150 officials, including staff from the Department of Defense and NASA, according to the report. In January, Biden signed an executive order calling on top federal agencies to “assess the feasibility of linking COVID-19 vaccination to International Certificates of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP).” The order stressed that the government do so “in coordination with any relevant international organizations.”
Similar initiatives are underway in Europe.