As the number of Americans taking the COVID-19 vaccine continues to rise — and with all adults in every U.S. state now eligible — much of the national conversation has shifted to so-called “vaccine passports” — documents proving that an individual has been inoculated for the purpose of granting participation in private or public business.
Proponents of such documentation say it will make a return to pre-pandemic life easier and safer, while offering liability protection to business owners.
However, those in opposition say such measures could be an unconstitutional violation of privacy.
Here are seven states where legislators are currently working to ban the use of “vaccine passports.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) was among the first chief executives to ban vaccine passports through executive order.
The March 9 measure clarifies that although the state “seeks to ensure that every Floridian who desires a COVID-19 vaccine can obtain one,” such vaccines “will not be mandated” or “required by law.”
The order also reaffirms that “COVID-19 vaccination records are private health information which should not be shared by mandate” through vaccine passports, which “reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.”
The order notes that vaccine passports would “create two classes of citizens based on vaccination.” It therefore prohibits government entities and private businesses from issuing vaccine passports or other documents “for the purpose of certifying an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status to a third party.”
Gov. DeSantis’ order directs all executive agencies to enforce the policy; businesses that fail to comply will no longer be eligible for “grants or contracts funded through state revenue.”
Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) likewise prohibited vaccine passports through executive order.
“Everyday, Texans are returning to normal life as more people get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. But, as I’ve said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced,” said Gov. Abbott in an April 6 press release. “Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives.”
“We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health — and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms,” he added.
The executive order points to the federal Project BioShield Act of 2004, which recognizes that each American has “the option to accept or refuse administration” of a product under emergency use authorization — such as COVID-19 vaccines.
The order clarifies that though the state of Texas strongly encourages inoculation, the vaccine will “never be mandated by the government.” Likewise, any private entity that receives public funding “shall not require a consumer to provide, as a condition of receiving any service or entering any place, documentation regarding the consumer’s vaccination status for any COVID-19 vaccine administered under an emergency use authorization.”
One day after Gov. Abbott signed his order, Gov. Brad Little (R-ID) banned vaccine passports in his state.
“Idahoans should be given the choice to receive the vaccine. We should not violate Idahoans’ personal freedoms by requiring them to receive it,” said Gov. Little in a statement. “Vaccine passports create different classes of citizens. Vaccine passports restrict the free flow of commerce during a time when life and the economy are returning to normal. Vaccine passports threaten individual freedom and patient privacy.”
The governor has “serious concerns that implementing COVID-19 vaccine passports will violate Idahoans’ medical privacy rights, prejudice those unable to receive the vaccine, slow our economic recovery, cause division among our populace and, ultimately, be counterproductive to the widespread administration of the COVID-19 vaccines among Idahoans.”
One week after Idaho enacted its ban, Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) issued an order banning vaccine passports across the state.
“I strongly encourage Montanans to get a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, which is our best path to protect our family and friends and get back to a more normal life,” Gov. Gianforte said in a press release. “Receiving one is entirely voluntary and will not be mandated by the State of Montana, nor compelled through vaccine passports, vaccine passes, or other compulsory means. We are committed to protecting individual liberty and personal privacy.”
The order “prohibits the State of Montana from requiring a vaccine to access state services or facilities; producing, issuing, or funding vaccine passports; and sharing an individual’s vaccination status with any person, company, or governmental entity for purposes of a vaccine passport program.” Under the order, businesses are prevented from requiring proof of vaccination status from patrons.
Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) enacted a similar ban on vaccine passports.
“The residents of our state should not be required by the government to share their private medical information,” remarked Gov. Ducey in an April 19 press release. “While we strongly recommend all Arizonans get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not mandated in our state — and it never will be. Vaccination is up to each individual, not the government.”
Under the order, “state agencies, counties, cities and towns cannot issue a measure that requires an individual to provide documentation of their COVID-19 vaccination status in order to enter a business, building or area or to receive a government service, permit or license.”
Private businesses are “not prohibited from requiring vaccination documentation in order to provide services or allow entry.” However, businesses contracting with the state cannot request documentation. Health care institutions may also “require COVID-19 vaccination status documentation of a patient, resident, employee or visitor.”
The Utah state legislature is advancing a similar ban on vaccine passports through its chambers.
State Rep. Robert Spendlove (R-UT) and State Sen. Daniel McCay (R-UT) sponsored a bill stating that a government entity “may not require, directly or indirectly, that an individual receive an emergency COVID-19 vaccine.”
Likewise, government agencies would not be able to mandate inoculation as a prerequisite for employment.
Legislators in the state of Iowa crafted a similar proposal.
Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-IA) — who serves as Majority Leader of the Iowa House — introduced a bill stating that “a business or governmental entity shall not require a customer, patron, client, patient, or other person who is invited onto the premises of the business or governmental entity” to provide proof of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC encourages all Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine once they’re eligible.