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The Guardian

US splits over vaccine passports as country targets return to normal

Some lawmakers and businesses are in favor of vaccine verification, but civil liberties and privacy issues abound Supporters of vaccine passports see a future where people have an app on their phones that includes their vaccine information. Photograph: Ethan Miller / Getty Images As summer approaches, Americans desperately need some sense of normalcy as the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine continues. Some companies and lawmakers believe they have a simple solution that will allow people to congregate again in greater numbers: vaccine passports. But as with so many issues in America these days, it’s an idea that divides America. Vaccine passport supporters see a future where people have an app on their phones that includes their vaccine information, similar to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paper sheet that is given when a person is vaccinated. . People would flash the app when they walked into a large venue for something like a concert or a sports match. While many other countries have implemented or are considering implementing vaccine passports, in a country where political divisions have determined belief in mask use, social distancing, and even the lethality of the virus, there is no It’s no surprise that there is already a political divide over whether vaccine passports should be used at all. Leaders in some democratic states have embraced the idea of ​​vaccine passports at major events such as concerts and weddings. New York launched its Excelsior Pass with IBM in late March with the intention of using the app in theaters, sports stadiums and event venues. California health officials will allow sites that check if someone has received the vaccine or tested negative to hold larger events. Hawaii is working with several companies on a vaccine passport system that would allow travelers to bypass Covid-19 tests and quarantine requirements if they are vaccinated. “Businesses have lost a lot of money throughout this time here, so there’s a lot to be recovered,” said Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism and Accommodation Association, to the local news channel Hawaii News Now. “We look forward to moving this economy forward in a safe and healthy way.” On the flip side, a growing number of states are passing laws banning vaccine passports, citing concerns of confidentiality and intrusion into people’s decisions to get vaccinated. “The government should not require any Texas to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about its daily business,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, who ordered that no government agency or institution receiving government funding does not require proof of vaccination. The governors of Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona and Indiana have passed or expressed support for similar laws. Splits have already taken place. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, told the CDC that it would be willing to require passengers to be fully vaccinated before boarding, but Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said its ban on vaccine passports prohibited such mandate. Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, like many colleges and universities, has said it will require students to be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall, but the school is considering returning to policy following prescription from DeSantis. Although conservative figures like Donald Trump Jr., who called vaccine passports “invasive,” have started to widely attack Democrats for supporting vaccine passports, the White House has made it clear that the federal government has not the intention to issue a vaccination passport or to require compulsory vaccinations. . “The government is not supporting now and we will not be supporting a system that requires Americans to wear credentials,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier in April. Psaki said the White House will issue guidance for businesses and local governments wishing to implement vaccine passports. Vaccine passports have always been used when crossing national borders. For example, some countries, including Brazil and Ghana, require people to be vaccinated against yellow fever before entering their country. And although vaccine passports have not been widely used in the United States, vaccination warrants and proof of the vaccines needed to run them are common. Many schools require that students receive a multitude of vaccines, while many health systems often require the annual flu shot for employers. The sensitivity around a vaccine passport is probably the result of a broader hesitation about vaccines. A recent poll showed that vaccine skepticism has a partisan bias: 30% of Republicans said they would not get the vaccine compared to 11% of Democrats, according to the Covid States Project. David Lazer, professor of political science at Northeastern University and researcher at the Covid States Project, said that “partisan divisions over behavior and policies have been acute throughout the pandemic,” but Democrats and Republicans are more evenly distributed over vaccines compared to other policies against Covid-19, such as mask wear and social distancing. The term “passport” could also distract people from the concept, said Maureen Miller, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, because it implies that verification requires more personal information beyond vaccination status. A recent survey by the Beaumont Foundation confirmed this, with Republican respondents more in favor of “checking” vaccines than a “passport”. Miller said the World Health Organization, which is developing its own smart vaccine certificate and standards for vaccine verification programs, insisted on distinguishing between a certificate and a passport. “A passport contains a lot of personal information, and a vaccine certificate does not,” Miller said. “It only contains the information necessary to convey the fact that the person has been vaccinated.” Other groups, including the Vaccine Credential Initiative and the Covid-19 Credential Initiative, are working to develop standards for digital vaccine passports with the aim of building confidence in vaccine verification programs. Miller said the ultimate goal would be to achieve collective immunity in the United States, which would eliminate the need for vaccine passports but require working through the skepticism that exists in the country. “People won’t feel comfortable in large numbers, in social environments until we achieve some sort of collective immunity, where when you run into someone there is a risk that an infectious person falls on someone who is susceptible is greatly reduced, ”Miller said. .

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