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Connecticut Mulling Vaccine Passports as Dose Eligibility Opens to All Adults

  • Governor Ned Lamont says Connecticut’s private sector could launch a “vaccine passport” in the coming months as COVID-19 vaccine eligibility opens to all adults in the state
  • If enacted, the program would require residents to show proof of vaccination to enter certain venues
  • Critics say the passports would create hassles for businesses and customers while also raising privacy concerns

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

With COVID-19 vaccine eligibility opening to all Connecticut adults today, the state may soon enter an emerging debate over whether “vaccine passports” should be required to take part in certain activities.

Governor Ned Lamont said Monday that the private sector could potentially create a vaccine passport system within the next month or two, when vaccines are distributed more widely and supply is sufficient to meet demand. The Biden administration is working on guidance for such programs, though it will likely leave decisions on them to state and local governments. New York recently implemented this type of rule by introducing its Excelsior Pass, which helps venues enforce state rules that people attending larger gatherings must produce a negative COVID-19 test result or proof that they have been vaccinated.

A vaccine passport would involve either a QR code or a paper document that could be presented at a venue. Advocates say they can help restore confidence in everyday activities and limit the risk of outbreaks in larger, denser venues where the transmission risk is greater. The use of vaccine passports could also be limited to higher risk areas, such as stadiums, concert halls, and airlines.

However, the idea has also sparked widespread opposition, especially among Republican lawmakers. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has called on the state’s legislature to pass a bill prohibiting the use of vaccine passports, while also saying he may take executive action against them.

Opponents say vaccine passports could also be discriminatory, since COVID-19 vaccines are optional; create extra work for businesses and hassle for customers; raise privacy concerns; and exclude populations who have more difficulty accessing vaccination sites. Other suggest that COVID-19 precautions such as mask mandates and social distancing will be sufficient to reduce transmission risks as vaccines are distributed.

The ACLU has raised several concerns about a digital vaccine passport system, including that it would raise privacy issues and discriminate against lower-income individuals without smartphones. The organization said paper-based passports raise fewer concerns, and would likely become obsolete once herd immunity is reached.

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