clearn.png
Tuesday June 15th, 2021 5:07AM

Vaccine passports are latest flash point in COVID politics

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine have become the latest flash point in America’s perpetual political wars, with Republicans portraying them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices.

They currently exist in only one state — a limited government partnership in New York with a private company — but that hasn’t stopped GOP lawmakers in a handful of states from rushing out legislative proposals to ban their use.

The argument over whether passports are a sensible response to the pandemic or governmental overreach echoes the bitter disputes over the past year about masks, shutdown orders and even the vaccines themselves.

Vaccine passports are typically an app with a code that verifies whether someone has been vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19. They are in use in Israel and under development in parts of Europe, seen as a way to safely help rebuild the pandemic- devastated travel industry.

They are intended to allow businesses to more safely open up as the vaccine drive gains momentum, and they mirror measures already in place for schools and overseas travel that require proof of immunization against various diseases.

But lawmakers around the country are already taking a stand against the idea. GOP senators in Pennsylvania are drawing up legislation that would prohibit vaccine passports, also known as health certificates or travel passes, from being used to bar people from routine activities.

“We have constitutional rights and health privacy laws for a reason,” said Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican. “They should not cease to exist in a time of crisis. These passports may start with COVID-19, but where will they end?”

Benninghoff said this week his concern was “using taxpayer money to generate a system that will now be, possibly, in the hands of mega-tech organizations who’ve already had problems with getting hacked and security issues.”

A Democratic colleague, Rep. Chris Rabb of Philadelphia, sees value in vaccine passports if they are implemented carefully.

“There’s a role for using technology and other means to confirm people’s statuses,” Rabb said. “But we do have concerns around privacy, surveillance and inequitable access.”

Republican legislators in other states have also been drafting proposals to ban or limit them. A bill introduced in the Arkansas Legislature on Wednesday would prevent government officials from requiring vaccine passports for any reason, and would ban their use as a condition of “entry, travel, education, employment or services.”

The sponsor, Republican state Sen. Trent Garner, called vaccine passports “just another example of the Biden administration using COVID-19 to put regulations or restrictions on everyday Americans.”

President Joe Biden's administration has largely taken a hands-off approach on vaccine passports.

At a news conference this week, Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said he considered them a project for the private sector, not the government.

He said the government is considering federal guidelines to steer the process surrounding vaccine passports. Among its concerns: Not everyone who would need a passport has a smartphone; passports should be free and in multiple languages; and private health information must be protected.

"There will be organizations that want to use these. There will be organizations that don’t want to use these,” said Dr. Brian Anderson of Mitre, which operates federally funded research centers and is part of a coalition working to develop standards for vaccine certifications to make their use easier across vendors.

Anderson noted the Vaccination Credential Initiative is not making recommendations on how — or even if — organizations choose to use the certifications.

In Montana, GOP lawmakers this week voted along party lines to advance a pair of bills that would ban discrimination based on vaccine status or possession of an immunity passport, and to prohibit using vaccine status or passports to obtain certain benefits and services.

And a freshman Republican state lawmaker in Ohio spoke out about the concept, saying more restrictions or mandates are not the answer to every COVID-19 problem.

“Ohioans are encouraged to take the COVID-19 vaccine for the health and well-being of themselves and others,” Rep. Al Cutrona said. “However, a vaccine should not be mandated or required by our government for our people to integrate back to a sense of normalcy.”

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday issued an executive order that said no governmental entity can issue a vaccine passport, and businesses in that state can't require them. He said he expected the Legislature to pass a similar law.

His order said requiring "so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports for taking part in everyday life — such as attending a sporting event, patronizing a restaurant, or going to a movie theater — would create two classes of citizens.”

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, a newly elected member who has embraced and promoted a range of far-right political positions, told her supporters on Facebook earlier this week that “something called a vaccine passport” was a form of “corporate communism” and part of a Democratic effort to control people’s lives.

And a GOP lawmaker in Louisiana has teed up a bill to keep the state from including any vaccination information on the Louisiana driver’s license or to make issuance of a driver’s license subject to vaccine status.

In New York, a government-sponsored vaccine passport called the Excelsior Pass is being introduced. A smartphone app, it shows whether someone has been vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted the idea as letting an event venue usher, for example, use their own smartphone to scan a concertgoer’s code.

New York officials have not released specific details about how the app will work, access someone’s vaccination or testing status or protect a user’s name, date of birth or the location where their code was scanned. The app’s privacy policy says data will be “maintained in a secure manner” and won’t be used for sales or marketing purposes or shared with a third party. But some privacy experts say the public needs more specifics to ensure its information is protected.

Albert Fox Cahn, founder and executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project at the Urban Justice Center, a New York–based civil rights and privacy group, warned the Excelsior Pass creates a new layer of surveillance without sufficient details about how it collects data or protects privacy.

"We basically only have screenshots of the user interface and not much more,” Cahn said of Excelsior Pass.

___

Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio; Marina Villeneuve in Albany, New York; Candice Choi in New York; Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; Amy Beth Hanson in Helena, Montana; and Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contributed.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care, AP Technology News
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Vaccine passports are latest flash point in COVID politics
Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status have become the latest flash point in America’s perpetual political wars
3:11PM ( 3 minutes ago )
Deadly breach could delay decisions about Capitol fencing
The latest deadly breach of the Capitol’s perimeter on Friday could delay the gradual reopening of the building’s grounds to the public just as lawmakers were eyeing a return to more normal security measures after the Jan. 6 riot
3:08PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Italy enters 3-day Easter lockdown amid vaccination snags
Italy has entered a three-day nationwide coronavirus lockdown to deter Easter travel and get-togethers
3:00PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Chauvin's trial leaves many Black viewers emotionally taxed
Many Black men and women in the U.S. are keeping tabs on what’s unfolding in the televised murder trial of white former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, taking in what they can before turning away to allow their anger and hurt to subside
1:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
Pressure mounts on corporations to denounce GOP voting bills
Liberal activists are stepping up calls on corporate America to denounce Republican efforts to tighten state voting laws
12:58PM ( 2 hours ago )
Thousands rally in England and Wales over police legislation
Hundreds of people marched Saturday through central London and other cities across England and Wales to protest the British government's plan to hand new powers to the police to tackle demonstrations
12:26PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
From child care to COVID, rising job market faces obstacles
A surge in U.S. hiring last month — 916,000 added jobs, the most since August — coincides with growing optimism that a blistering pace of job growth will continue as vaccinations increase and federal aid fuels economic growth
10:31AM ( 4 hours ago )
Vaccine passport efforts draw opposition from GOP lawmakers
Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status have become the latest flash point in America’s perpetual political wars
10:21AM ( 4 hours ago )
The final insult: Some dying of COVID while awaiting vaccine
Air Force veteran Diane Drewes spent months hoping to receive a COVID-19 immunization
10:19AM ( 4 hours ago )
Top U.S. News short headlines
Gaetz sex probe suddenly threatens a speedy Washington rise
Compared with most congressional newbies, it didn’t take Rep. Matt Gaetz long
10:37AM ( 4 hours ago )
EXPLAINER: What Biden's new $100B plan for broadband means
Broadband internet in the U.S. costs more than in many other rich nations, it still doesn’t reach tens of millions of Americans and the companies that provide it don’t face much competition
10:14AM ( 5 hours ago )
Aiming big, Biden is looking to restore faith in government
President Joe Biden’s vision of his presidency is quickly taking shape
8:57AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
The Latest: Terrorism not suspected in deadly Capitol attack
Law enforcement officials say terrorism is not suspected in a deadly confrontation outside the U.S. Capitol that began when a man rammed his car into two officers outside the Capitol and then emerged wielding a knife
3:31PM ( 23 hours ago )
Car rams into police at Capitol barricade; officer killed
A Capitol Police officer has been killed after a man rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol and then emerged wielding a knife
2:54PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Suspect in crash and shooting at US Capitol dies
Two law enforcement officials tell The Associated Press that the driver who rammed a car into two police officers outside the U.S. Capitol has died after being shot by authorities
2:41PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Congress News
The Latest: Texas to get 2.5M doses of vaccine next week
The Texas health department says it will receive another 2.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine next week
1:46PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Italy enters strict 3-day lockdown over Easter
Italy has entered a three-day strict nationwide lockdown to deter Easter travel and help prevent surges of the coronavirus
12:09PM ( 3 hours ago )
Groups: Venice lagoon still at risk after cruise ship decree
Activists opposed to cruise ships in Venice are seeking a meeting with the Italian government
11:59AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: SKorea's daily virus increase tops 500 again
South Korea’s daily increase in coronavirus infections exceeded 500 for the fourth straight day, a pace unseen since January, as experts raise concern about another viral surge amid a slow rollout in vaccines
12:15AM ( 14 hours ago )
The Latest: California clears way for indoor concerts, games
California has cleared the way for people to attend indoor concerts, theater performances and NBA games for the first time in more than a year as the rate of people testing positive for the coronavirus in the state nears a record low
9:44PM ( 17 hours ago )
The Latest: Nebraska rancher's virus-damaged lungs replaced
A 31-year-old Nebraska cattle rancher is recovering after doctors replaced his coronavirus-damaged lungs
6:54PM ( 20 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
The Latest: CDC: Fully vaccinated can travel again in U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to say fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S., without getting a COVID-19 test or going into quarantine
11:54AM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Tennessee fully vaccinates 1 million residents
Tennessee’s Department of Health has announced that 1 million residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19
11:20AM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Russian businesses adapt to virus challenges
Russia had a six-week coronavirus shutdown last spring, but was never fully locked down after that, easing some challenges for its economy
8:45AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Health Care
CEO of Google's self-driving car spinoff steps down from job
The executive who steered the transformation of Google’s self-driving car project into a separate company worth billions of dollars is stepping down after more than five years on the job
4:30PM ( 22 hours ago )
April, the giraffe that became an online star, dies
A rural New York zoo says the giraffe that became a sensation when her 2017 pregnancy and delivery were livestreamed has been euthanized because of advancing arthritis
4:24PM ( 22 hours ago )
Biden aims to juice EV sales, but would his plan work?
Dangling tax credits and rebates in his drive to fight climate change, President Joe Biden wants you to trade your gas-burning car, truck or SUV for a zero-emissions electric vehicle
12:01AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Technology News
Deadly breach could delay decisions about Capitol fencing
The latest deadly breach of the Capitol’s perimeter on Friday could delay the gradual reopening of the building’s grounds to the public just as lawmakers were eyeing a return to more normal security measures after the Jan. 6 riot
3:08PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Italy enters 3-day Easter lockdown amid vaccination snags
Italy has entered a three-day nationwide coronavirus lockdown to deter Easter travel and get-togethers
3:00PM ( 13 minutes ago )
Pope urges hope amid 'darkness' of pandemic in Easter vigil
Pope Francis is urging his coronavirus-weary flock to not lose hope even through the continued “dark months” of the pandemic
2:57PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Georgia governor vows a fight after MLB yanks All-Star Game
Baseball fans are divided about Major League Baseball’s decision to pull this summer’s All-Star Game from Georgia over the new voting law that critics say will hurt communities of color
2:36PM ( 38 minutes ago )
Oklahoma hires Loyola Chicago's Moser as basketball coach
Oklahoma has hired Loyola Chicago’s Porter Moser as its basketball coach following Lon Kruger’s retirement
2:33PM ( 41 minutes ago )