Texas joins growing list of states to ban ‘vaccine passports’

Texas is the latest U.S. state to ban “vaccine passport” requirements.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Tuesday prohibiting state and local governments and agencies from implementing such requirement. The order prohibits the state from refusing service to individuals based on their vaccination status, as well as any organization receiving public funds from requiring consumers to provide documentation of vaccine status in order to receive any service or enter any place, according to the order.

Abbott also released a one-minute PSA video stating that Texas will surpass more than 13 million COVID-19 vaccine doses this week “to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, reduce hospitalizations and reduce fatalities.

“Every day, Texans are returning to normal life,” he said. “But, as I have said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced. Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives. We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health – and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.”

To date, 18 states have initiated legislation or issued executive orders banning or severely restricting the use of vaccine passports and prohibiting discrimination based on vaccine status. They include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Iowa, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Elected officials in Illinois and Hawaii have expressed support for the passport. New York and Nevada have already launched digital vaccine passport systems.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was among the first to publicly oppose the idea several weeks ago. He told reporters, “Under no circumstances will the state ask you to show proof of vaccination. People are able to make decisions for themselves.”

On March 12, the Biden administration announced it would be issuing guidance to the private sector to implement a vaccine passport system in response to a request from the airline industry. White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that “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.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the development of such a program “will be driven by the private sector.”

However, after backlash from DeSantis, the ACLU and the general public, the White House appears to have changed its position.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday the federal government “is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential.

“There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

She added that the administration “wants to protect Americans’ privacy and doesn’t want vaccine passports “used against people unfairly.”

The first vaccine passport of its kind was launched in New York by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Called the “Excelsior Pass,” it works through an app enabling users to prove their vaccination status or COVID-19 test result in order to gain entry to events and businesses.

“Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass Wallet app,” a news release from the governor’s office states.

“Each pass will have a secure QR code, which participating businesses and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination. An individual’s data is kept secure and confidential at all times.”

Madison Square Garden and the Times Union Center in Albany have already begun using the app, Cuomo’s office said, with the Excelsior Pass expanding to “smaller arts, entertainment and event venues,” on April 2. The app reportedly uses blockchain technology and encryption to prevent users’ health information from being hacked.

While Texas and Florida coronavirus rates have declined and their states have fully reopened, New York’s has not. DeSantis says vaccine passports are a “totally unnecessary” violation of individuals’ rights and restriction of movement.