While nearly four in ten Americans have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the nation is divided on the idea of mandating COVID-19 Vaccine Passports. Some Americans feel these passports will help to reopen many areas of the economy and facilitate ease of safe business travel, while others worry these passports will infringe on constitutional rights. Several countries are already using COVID-19 travel passports without incident. But in the U.S., division on the issue is rooted in both legality and ethics.
What is a COVID-19 Travel Passport?
Referred to as Digital Health Passes (DHPs), COVID-19 vaccination passports would serve as proof of full vaccination against coronavirus and would nullify the currently mandated negative test report required for some domestic and all international travel. Verification of these digital passports will be a critical part of their efficacy, which is why authorities have suggested they be digital instead of a hard copy passport.
Vaccination passports are not a novel idea in the United States. Many educational institutions require proof of vaccinations for enrollment, particularly elementary schools and colleges or universities where a student will be living in a dormitory. These private vaccine requirements are legal, which is why experts suggest the private sector is where the implementation of DHPs will begin.
States are Divided on the Use of COVID-19 Travel Passports
The White House has repeatedly confirmed they will not mandate vaccine passports, however, public health powers lie in the individual states in the U.S. and not with the federal government. Governors of some states, such as New York (which currently boasts the highest full vaccination rate in the country at 50%) have embraced the idea. New York has already developed the Excelsior Pass – an app that allows residents to digitally store and share proof of vaccination. But Governors of other states, including Florida and Texas, have gone as far as issuing executive orders banning the use of DHPs in their states.
Without federal regulations in place, the legalities of executive orders from state to state are unclear. Florida’s executive order has already interfered with inter-state as well as international business.
Debate For and Against COVID-19 Travel Passports
Mandates for COVID-19 travel passports will continue to be a controversial issue as long as the three currently authorized vaccines are being used under an Emergency Use Authorization. In the past, vaccine mandates have been issued only for fully licensed vaccines.
While a lack of current federal regulations may prevent vaccine passports from becoming legally binding across the United States, many schools and businesses have announced that they will individually mandate COVID-19 travel passports. The ethical debate has raised concern about constitutional rights. If an American does not have a DHP, will they then be banned from religious services or public demonstrations? What about essential travel, for health-related issues or essential business? Employers will have to allow exemptions based on medical reasons and religious beliefs. Accommodations will need to be made for those who comply with exemptions so that they can continue to work.
COVID-19 Travel Passports and Business
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has already said that businesses are permitted to require COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees. Governors who are issuing executive orders against DHPs are contradicting federal oversight. Legally, your employer has the right to ask whether you have proof of vaccination but you do not have to answer as to why you have not been vaccinated, nor any other follow-up questions. Any further questions can infringe upon personal privacy laws.
Businesses have a legal and ethical responsibility to provide a safe work place. Customers are more likely to frequent businesses where they can trust everyone has been proven vaccinated. Employees will feel safer coming to work knowing that their fellow employees are vaccinated.
The use of a COVID-19 travel passport will undoubtedly save employers time and money. Proof of vaccination is now often required by travel vendors and business partners. More and more airlines and hotels require customers to provide proof of vaccination as well as business meeting venues and recreational facilities.
With requirements varying from state to state, as well as from business to business, equipping your employees with a COVID-19 travel passport will guarantee their freedom as they travel and conduct business across the United States. While vaccines are the best guaranteed way out of the pandemic, COVID-19 travel passports are the best way to re-start and support the