As America’s mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 continues to hum along, two Ohio state legislators are planning to introduce a bill that will preemptively ban vaccine passports over concerns about privacy and government overreach.
Rep. Al Cutrona, a Republican who represents parts of eastern Ohio, told Fox News that vaccine passports mandated by the government would create “privacy concerns that should be startling to anyone.”
“I want to make sure that we put a stop on this from the government,” Rep. Cutrona — who runs an infectious disease medical practice in Ohio — said Wednesday. “It’s a false sense of security, a false sense of normalcy, and frankly, I think it’s a very slippery slope that we’re heading down.”
Rep. Mike Loychik, a Republican cosponsor of Cutrona’s bill, tweeted that the “last thing we should do is follow Andrew Cuomo and New York’s example by implementing vaccine passports.”
New York became the first state to roll out a digital vaccine passport when it launched “Excelsior Pass” last week.
“As more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day and as key public health metrics continue to regularly reach their lowest rates in months, the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Pass heralds the next step in our thoughtful, science-based reopening,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of the vaccine passport rollout.
Several private businesses and organizations have started developing ways to confirm that someone is vaccinated, but a growing coalition of conservatives, libertarians, and other activists have expressed concern that government-sponsored vaccine passports would be an intrusion of privacy.
Justin Amash, a former Michigan Congressman and a Republican turned Libertarian, said he believes vaccine passports “will have exceedingly negative consequences for society.”
“A vaccine passport — a unified, centralized system for providing or denying access to everyday activities like shopping and dining — would be a nightmare for civil liberties and privacy, and it would exacerbate existing social disparities connected to wealth, privilege, and race,” Amash tweeted.
Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said he fears that a vaccine passport would be overused.
“While there are legitimate circumstances in which people can be asked for proof of vaccination, we don’t want to turn into a checkpoint society that outlasts the danger of COVID and that casually excludes people without credentials from facilities where vaccine mandates are not highly justified,” Stanley wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.
Several Republican lawmakers have spoken out against the passport idea in recent weeks. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that he would pass an emergency order to ban vaccine passports and encouraged the state legislature to make the ban permanent.
“This is something that has huge privacy implications. It is not necessary to do,” DeSantis said at a news conference Monday. “We are not going to have you provide proof of this just to be able to live your life normally.”
The Washington Post reported Sunday that the Biden administration is working on developing vaccine passports, but White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said Monday the federal government would not be mandating anything.
“Unlike other parts of the world, the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of, of citizens,” he said during a COVID-19 briefing at the White House. “We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do.”
More than 150 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in America as of Wednesday evening, according to the CDC.