White House rejects U.S. vaccine passports, skirting uproar
The U.S. government won’t issue so-called vaccine passports, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, after Texas sought to limit their development because of privacy concerns.
“The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Psaki told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
The administration wants to protect Americans’ privacy and doesn’t want vaccine passports “used against people unfairly,” Psaki said.
Some businesses and colleges are pushing for people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination — before, say, boarding cruise ships, entering stadiums, or returning to campus — as a way to safely resume pre-pandemic operations.
For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings plans to resume cruising from U.S. ports starting July 4 and will require vaccinations of guests and crew, the company said.
Brown University and Northeastern University on Tuesday joined a group of universities that will require students to get a COVID-19 vaccine in order to return to campus in the fall.
Vaccine passports are usually conceived of as smartphone apps that would show the holder has been vaccinated against COVID-19, easing travel and use of services like restaurants. The White House has previously said any such efforts should be led by the private and not-for-profit sectors.
Several states say they won’t facilitate such requirements.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, issued an order Tuesday forbidding state agencies or any entity receiving public money from requiring vaccine passports.
That effort follows a similar ban by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, on the sort of Excelsior Pass established in New York state that allows residents to verify their COVID-19 vaccinations or negative coronavirus test results before entering concert venues or stadiums.
Psaki said the administration would provide guidance “that provides important answers to questions that Americans have, in particular around concerns about privacy, security or discrimination soon.”
There’s sharp debate on the issue in the U.K. and other countries. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on course for a battle with members of Parliament over plans to introduce vaccine passports as part of opening up services.
In that country, so-called COVID-status certificates — based on proof of a vaccine, a negative test or immunity for those who have recovered from a coronavirus infection — could eventually eliminate the need for testing of audiences at live events and passengers heading on international trips, under government plans.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.