The Biden administration is set to launch a COVID passport that would track Americans that took the vaccine, despite warnings by civil rights advocates.
“The Biden administration and private companies are working to develop a standard way of handling credentials — often referred to as ‘vaccine passports’ — that would allow Americans to prove they have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus as businesses try to reopen,” the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
“The effort has gained momentum amid President Biden’s pledge that the nation will start to regain normalcy this summer and with a growing number of companies — from cruise lines to sports teams — saying they will require proof of vaccination before opening their doors again,” the report continued.
“The administration’s initiative has been driven largely by arms of the Department of Health and Human Services, including an office devoted to health information technology, said five officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the effort,” the report added.
“Our role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people’s privacy,” the administration’s coronavirus coordinator Zients said at a March 12 briefing. The Biden White House refused to go on the record about the COVID passports.
“The initiative has emerged as an early test of the Biden administration, with officials working to coordinate across dozens of agencies and a variety of experts, including military officials helping administer vaccines and health officials engaging in international vaccine efforts,” the Washington Post report noted.
New York launched its COVID passport on Friday, following a trial run on thousands of New Yorkers testing the program. The Excelsior Passport is “the first of its kind to be rolled out in United States and allows specific sites that administer COVID vaccines or test for the coronavirus to upload the data to the app,” the Gothamist reported.
The Washington Post published an opinion editorial by Shannon McMahon in January arguing against such COVID “passports” for travel.
“While vaccination requirements seem to be prioritizing people’s health, an increasing number of health experts and tourism officials are saying vaccine passports should not be made mandatory for international travel any time soon because of short supply of doses and potential lapses in the amount of protection vaccines provide; current health measures like testing and quarantines, they say, should stay for vaccinated people,” McMahon wrote. “And the World Health Organization recently said that it opposes vaccine requirements for travel because of equity issues in the current state of the global vaccine rollout.”