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Vaccine passport systems are ripe for abuse and destined to fail – The Denver Post



Although New York is the first to implement a vaccine passport, other states are considering similar initiatives and the Biden administration and corporations are working on ways to standardize vaccine verification. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is also exploring the idea as it considers how to work with other government agencies and businesses to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates. The Polis administration says is not pursuing a vaccination mandate and will not give companies access to the state’s vaccine registry data.  Any disclosure by an individual through a passport system would have to be voluntary.

Vaccine verification is not a new concept, but that doesn’t make it a good one. In my U.S. passport, I carry a card that provides proof of yellow fever immunization required for entry into more than a dozen African countries. My hospice volunteer ID card shows proof of participation in the annual flu vaccine; it’s required for hospital workers. Also, I have my childhood immunization records required to enroll in public schools tucked away in a drawer. In a sense I already carry three vaccine passports; why not add a fourth?

There are several reasons a COVID vaccine passport should be rejected: It lacks the justification of existing verifications mandates, is vulnerable to abuse, could increase vaccination hesitancy, and will slow the return to normalcy and economic recovery.

Current vaccination verification requirements for travelers, health care workers, and school children are justified by unique circumstances. The Yellow fever virus has a much higher infection mortality rate than COVID-19. For those who develop a serious case, the mortality rate is as high as 50%. By comparison, about 7% of Americans with a COVID infection serious enough to require hospitalization will die. The difference in mortality rates is likely due to differences in the viruses and differences in access to high-quality care. African countries vulnerable to yellow fever outbreaks are thus prudent to require visitors enter with proof of vaccination.

Similarly, a Colorado requirement that health care employers ensure at least 90% of their employees are inoculated is justifiable on grounds that workers interact daily with medically vulnerable people. The last thing a hospice patient needs is a volunteer with a case of the flu. Also, those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons are exempt.

A similar exemption is available for students enrolling in Colorado schools. Nonexempt children, however, must provide proof of immunization against potentially lethal childhood diseases.  An airborne contagion like measles can gain a foothold quickly in a crowded classroom of second graders unless the majority of students have acquired immunity.

The average Coloradan, by comparison, does not face the heightened risks faced by Africans, patients, and school children which would necessitate a new vaccine verification scheme especially one as ripe for abuse and discrimination as a COVID vaccine passport would be.

Under current vaccine verification systems, school and health administrators and state agencies are responsible for enforcement, but under a COVID passport regime, presumably any business could require vaccine status verification. This would violate medical privacy laws. Even a “voluntary” request for vaccine status could invite abuse. Over the past year, several friends who were told not to wear masks by their doctors because they exacerbated asthma or other medical conditions experienced harassment and were even forced to leave retail establishments. A COVID-19 passport could invite similar discrimination by employers or businesses of people who had not been vaccinated for medical reasons.  It would also set a precedent for more intrusive medical disclosure mandates in the future.

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