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Biden Admin Faces Growing Demands From Health Experts to Push Vaccine Passports

(NY Governor's Press Office via AP, File)
(NY Governor's Press Office via AP, File)

There's been a rise in demand from health experts that the Biden administration promote the use of COVID-19 vaccine mandates and passports in an effort to motivate more Americans to get immunized.

The White House has rejected enforcing such measures on the federal level, arguing that the rights and privacy of citizens should be protected.

"The Biden administration shouldn't be so squeamish about vaccine verification," George Washington University Public Health Professor Leana Wen said, according to The Hill.

Officials have also objected to using mandates among government employees or military forces. 

"If a company, a business wants to take steps to keep their workers and their passengers safe, I would think that, from a government perspective, we want to do everything we can to encourage that," said Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

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But Wen said the Biden administration should have endorsed a standard method of verifying who has been inoculated, labeling it a "missed opportunity" to increase vaccine acceptance.

She explained that some people might be waiting for the right reason, and a mandate could be the best way may to encourage them. 

"There are a lot of people in the middle," Wen said. "They're not eager to get the vaccine, but they're also not anti-vaxxers. They need an additional push. And that push is still not there, because we have not been requiring proof of vaccination in order to return to normal."

Meanwhile, states such as Florida, Texas, Georgia, and Iowa have outrighted banned vaccine passports, citing privacy concerns and freedom as the main reasons for the veto.

"Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private information just to go about their daily lives," said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R). "That is why I issued an executive order that prohibits government-mandated passports in Texas. We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health and we will do so without treading on Texas' personal freedoms." 

Delta Airlines recently mandated vaccinations for all new employees in the U.S. As for passengers, airlines do not require vaccines or passports although many are considering digital versions for scanning that would carry specific health information.

Other businesses could follow suit, based on a survey by the Rockefeller Foundation and Arizona State University. 
Overall 88 percent of the employers surveyed plan to require or encourage employee vaccinations.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers can legally make this requirement, while providing exceptions for those with a medical or religious accommodation.

This fall, a number of college campuses, including Yale, Georgetown, and the University of California, will make vaccinations mandatory.

Amesh Adalja, a scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said he believes more employers will mandate COVID-19 immunization once a vaccine is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"I think that the administration needs to really push on the FDA to get full licensure of these vaccines because I think that's one thing that's holding back those mandates," Adalja said.

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