CORONAVIRUS VACCINE

Coronavirus US: what is the covid-19 passport, who gets it and where can be used?

As the Biden administration's vaccination effort continues, we take a look at the possibility of a federal system to track who has had the life-saving shot.

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Coronavirus US: what is the covid-19 passport, who gets it and where can be used?
JASON REDMOND AFP

As countries around the world begin to speed up the vaccination effort, some are starting to remove the covid-19 restrictions that have been in place for over a year.

Vaccinations are becoming increasingly available to those who want them and some developed nations are hoping to reach herd immunity (typically considered to be around 70% of the population vaccinated) later this year.

As more people receive the vaccine some nations are considering implementing a ‘covid passport’, which would grant the owner extra freedoms if they have had a negative covid-19 test, a vaccination or other proof of immunity.

What is a covid passport?

Despite the name being widely used there is no exact definition of what it could mean. Most examples involve a smartphone app or physical QR code that can be used to prove immunity from coronavirus, signifying that the holder can safely dispense with some of the covid-19 restrictions.

NPR report that the information could be stored on a personal QR code, which is then updated by state health departments, pharmacies and other health systems who may have administered either a vaccine or a coronavirus test. Events and venues may begin to return to full capacity later this year, and the QR code in your covid passport could be scanned by organisers on entrance to confirm that you are safe to enter.

Dr. Zeke Emanuel, professor of medical ethics from the University of Pennsylvania and a member of President Biden's Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board, said of the proposals: "It's really not a passport to necessarily cross borders. It's a certification. It's providing information about what your status is in some area.”

Strong opposition makes covid passports unlikely in the US

Despite the potential the idea is far from universally popular and many argue that the centralised storage of personal medical data violates certain freedoms. There are also concerns that the introduction of covid passports will create a segregated society in which one group is denied the freedoms of another.

Earlier this month Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order which prevents businesses from demanding proof of a coronavirus vaccine to gain entry. The legislation warns that "so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy," saying that the introduction "would create two classes of citizens based on vaccinations."

As such the White House has denied that there are any plans to introduce federal covid passports which would allow individuals to skip pandemic restrictions on the basis of being vaccinated.

Speaking to reporters recently, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: "The 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."