A Return to Life? Or An Invasion of Privacy?

Vaccine passports quickly became the latest spark in the COVID-19 discussion of U.S. politics. Soon after New York introduced their version – called Pass to Excelsior the states began to take sides. Some are looking to create their own vaccine passport system, while others are actively banning them. So, does a vaccine passport come back to life? Or is it an invasion of privacy?

The answer is: no and both. It all depends on what each state means by “vaccine vaccine” and how it is implemented. It is too depends on whether anyone needs a passport. Some businesses, including airlines, have a stand on whether they will need vaccines.

What is a Vaccine Passport?

Simply put, a “vaccine passport” proves that you have been vaccinated. Depending on the context, it could be a simple shot record or something more formal like a certified certificate or smartphone app. If a country or business (such as a cruise line or concert venue) requires vaccinations, your “passport” allows you to enter.

The Excelsior Pass in New York allows individuals to share their vaccination status with participating businesses. Photo from New York State.

Asking people to show proof of vaccination is not new.

States have been requiring vaccination in the U.S. since the beginning of the 20th century. They started as a way to stop small bulb outbreaks and have since been used to fight polio, measles and other vaccine -preventable diseases. School immunization requirements exist in all 50 U.S. states, and it is not uncommon for certain employers (such as hospitals, child care facilities, or government agencies) to need to be vaccinated. their employees.

Putting in place a vaccine passport system won’t change that.

Are Vaccine Passports Legal?

Overall, yes. Whether or not it is legal to issue (or request) proof of vaccination will depend on where and how it is done. Various laws govern government agencies and private enterprises. And the laws can vary from one place to the next. Some states, such as Texas and Florida, have made it illegal for state government agencies to mandate vaccine passports.

In the U.S., private businesses have many avenues to set their own policies, especially when it comes to protecting the health and safety of their employees and patrons. Most of that freedom has access to vaccination requirements, as long as they make exceptions for those who are unsafe to be vaccinated for medical reasons or, in some cases, strictly hold religious beliefs. .

Vaccination passports can be easily made to ensure a person is vaccinated in a way that protects privacy. But if they don’t issue to the state, then businesses are on their own to verify someone’s status.

Do Vaccine Passports Violate HIPAA or Patient Privacy?

No. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (or HIPAA) prohibits healthcare providers from sharing health information without the consent of patients. Anyone can ask you to volunteer the information. And it is perfectly legal for you to share your vaccination status with anyone you want. Many are already doing that on social media.

Does the United States Need Vaccine Passports?

Many businesses are waiting for what the federal government has to say, but the White House has stated there is no one unified credential for vaccination. States and businesses can make their own decisions. Unfortunately, that means people are left confused as to whether they need a passport from state to state or even business to business.

We have seen this scenario in the past with the introduction of immunization information systems (IIS), also known as vaccine registers. The IIS collects information on where people have received recommended vaccinations for two main reasons, in order to:

  • Help health care providers keep track of what vaccines patients may need once they have gone to multiple medical offices.
  • Identify people at risk for serious illness during a disease outbreak.

All of this information is kept private. and they don’t need to have their knowledge of the systems if they don’t want to be there.

Because the federal government did not issue a state development guidance issue in the 1990s, each state had to develop one. IIS according to their own needs, desires, and laws. As a result, IIS across the country is a wealth of information. And few can speak the state lines.

Bottom Line: Ignore intimidating Rhetoric.

Having vaccine passports does not mean that you will be forced to take the COVID vaccine or share your medical information if you do not want to. This is only one way for areas with vaccination requirements or area restrictions to prove they have been vaccinated or if there is no resistance.

If you live in New York or another state considering vaccine passports, our friends at Voice for Vaccines have created a video that shows how passports work in the real world.

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