Like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, anti-maskers are livid over the coming of “vaccine passports.” They say the so-called passports would be a Big Brother control mechanism tracking their every move, while traveling or enjoying events that will no longer be super-spreaders when people are vaccinated.
“The first thing to know about vaccine passports is that they’re not passports,” explains Washington Post columnist Molly Roberts.
“They’re more like certificates, likely emerging in the form of scannable smartphone codes, that declare one thing, and only one thing, about their bearer: that they have gotten stuck in the arm the requisite number of times.”
President Biden signed an executive order in January, directing Health & Human Services to partner with US companies to craft the certificates. So far, IBM and 16 other companies are onboard.
Frank O. Bowman, Constitutional Law Professor
The Blog for Arizona asked University of Missouri School of Law Professor Frank O Bowman, III, a visiting scholar at Georgetown Law School, whether he believes the vaccine certificates are constitutional.
“Certainly, it’s clear that other countries impose requirements like this all the time. For example, it is a condition of obtaining a visa to travel to a number of countries that one has been vaccinated for yellow fever. I have a yellow fever vaccine certification that accompanies my passport.”
“More interesting would be a requirement that even US persons (citizens and lawful permanent residents) who have traveled abroad not be allowed to re-enter the country without a vaccine certification.
It’s certainly possible legally, in my view, but politically far more difficult.
“Now, if you are referring to ‘vaccine passports’ in the sense of limitations on travel within or among the state of the United States, that might get a bit trickier.
“But there, too, the federal government has the express constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce.
“So, I think that the national government could prohibit interstate travel (or travel on airplanes, buses, trains, or other modes of interstate travel) without proof of vaccination (perhaps subject to some reasonable exceptions).
“The question again would be who instituted such limitations – i.e., president by executive order, agency by regulation, or Congress – and whether the mandating authority possessed the constitutional authority to do so.
“But that such a power resides in the national government, in general, seems reasonably plain to me. That said, others might disagree on the theory that there exists a right to travel freely between states that could not be restrained in that way.
“An even more interesting question might arise if ‘vaccine passports’ were required not for travel, but for various local activities – e.g., eating in a restaurant or attending a public entertainment venue.
“I doubt the federal government could, or would try, to impose local restrictions of that kind.
“Not only is there a question of constitutional authority, but also one of enforcement capacity. “Does the FBI check vaccine passports at every movie theatre?
“My guess is that restrictions of that kind will be relatively rare, or if imposed, will arise from decisions of private actors, e.g., you can’t attend our movie theatre without a vaccine certification,” Professor Bowman concluded.
Airlines, Labor Unions, and the Chamber of Commerce
Airlines, labor unions, and the Chamber of Commerce have been clamoring for the vaccine certificates.
The Department of Health & Human Services coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients says he will be announcing updates to the program in the coming days.
“Our role is to help ensure that any solutions in this area should be simple, free, open-source, accessible to people both digitally and on paper, and designed from the start to protect people’s privacy,” said Zients said at a March 12 briefing.
New York’s Excelsior Pass
The World Health Organization and IBM are piloting their digital certificate, The Excelsior Pass, in New York.
Supporters of the certificate say it would rev up hard-hit industries such as travel and entertainment, The Hill reports.
Tim Paydos, Global Vice President of IBM’s government-industry business, told The Hill, “And quite frankly, I want to get back traveling again as well, because I haven’t been on an airplane since [last] March, and I used to travel all the time.
Paydos said IBM is in talks with “just about every state” and federal agencies as well to figure out how to make digital certificates.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said his state would launch a similar effort, The Hill reports.