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'It Sounds Very Benign': Vaccine Passport Debate Heats up as DeSantis Bans Them and Conservatives Say No

Image Source: Lukas/Unsplash
Image Source: Lukas/Unsplash

Eligibility for vaccines is expanding with more than a dozen states set to make the shots available to those 16-years-old and up.

The drug company Pfizer, partnering with German company BioNTech, says its vaccine is 100 percent effective for adolescents.

USA Today reports that Pfizer-BioNTech plans to submit their data to the Food and Drug Administration for authorization so that BNT162b2 is revised to include that age group.

As vaccinations become more widely available, a debate is heating up over so-called "vaccine passports."

The idea includes businesses and local governments requiring people to show evidence of getting the shot before they could participate in some events or enter certain buildings.

The Biden administration says it will leave the decision up to the states but will provide guidance on the issue.

New York State has already introduced its own vaccine tracking effort. The program, which is named the "Excelsior Pass," is an app that allows New Yorkers to prove their vaccination status, or recent history of a negative COVID-19 test, in order to gain entry to events and businesses. 

Each pass will have a secure QR code which businesses and other venues can scan with a companion app to verify negative COVID-19 test results or proof of vaccination. The program launched last Friday. 

But some conservatives are speaking out against the proposed measure.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced this week that he signed executive order SB72 forbidding vaccine passports.

"We are not supporting doing any vaccine passports in the state of Florida," he told reporters. "It's completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society."

"You want to go to a movie theater, should you have to show that?" DeSantis asked. "No. You want to go to a game, should you have to show that? No. You want to go to a theme park? No. We're not supportive of that." 

And Pat Robertson said on the 700 Club Wednesday that being required to prove your vaccination status via a passport is a disturbing move toward government monitoring of people's movements.

"This is a step toward Big Brother surveillance and we should fight it with everything we've got. It sounds very benign, 'O yeah, we've got a passport, I've had a vaccine, that means I can go where I want to.' Uh uh. It means Big Tech is gonna be watching you," Dr. Robertson explained. 

And former Rep. Justin Amash (L-MI) says "vaccine passports" are a big step toward the loss of freedom.

"A 'vaccine passport' is not 'what we already do,'" he tweeted. "It's not proof of vaccination for (international) travel or schooling. It's proof of vaccination for everyday living — groceries, restaurants, movies. It's disingenuous to conflate the former with the latter."

"I believe a vaccine passport—even one privately managed—will have exceedingly negative consequences for society," he said in a tweet. "I also don't believe the government will stay out of it; nor do I believe they'll stop at COVID or vaccinations. The expansion of the Patriot Act/FISA is instructive."

He followed up with another tweet on Wednesday saying, "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."

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