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Biden administration looks into vaccine passports

As more states are opening and easing up on their restrictions, President Joe Biden is considering the possibility of vaccine passports for Americans.

By Matthew Royer, Staff Writer

President Joe Biden and his administration are looking into developing vaccine passports for citizens and those staying in the United States through visas who have received their COVID-19 vaccination.

As the country looks to fully reopen by the summer, Biden and the Department of Health and Human Services have begun to fast-track a program that would work with private businesses to supply Americans with a passport that would allow them entry to businesses, other states and allow for travel throughout the country, according to The Washington Post.

This idea is not new. The European Union recently took steps to enact vaccine passports for their citizens by summer as well, citing a need “to allow safe and unrestricted movement during the pandemic.

Popularity for the passport is soaring in Europe, with the bill passing Parliament with 468 of 687 possible votes; however, it is a different story in America, as the Republican Party is vehemently opposed to the idea.

Republican governors like Ron DeSantis of Florida and Kristi Noem of South Dakota are openly against the prospect, instead opting to open their states and remove pandemic restrictions, according to The Hill. The latter of the two wrote on Twitter about how the idea violates her freedoms.

“The @joebiden #CovidPassport proposal is one of the most un American ideas in our nation’s history,” wrote Noem. “We as Americans should oppose this oppression.”

During a briefing with Biden’s COVID-19 response team on March 29, acting Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Andy Slavitt responded to the criticism as transcribed by CSPAN.

“This is going to hit all parts of society, and so naturally, the government is involved,” said Slavitt. "But unlike other parts of the world, the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of citizens. We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do.”

In California, the state is likely to look into a program similar to New York’s “Excelsior Pass,” which holds and secures an individual’s vaccination and health information. The pass allows entry into private businesses that have opted into the program.

As of right now, Gov. Gavin Newsom has not revealed any plans to implement a similar system. Newsom recently received the vaccine himself and is waiting for a larger percentage of California’s population to be vaccinated to move forward with any further action, according to Cal Matters — a nonpartisan and nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining the logistics of California’s state capitol. The governor has accelerated vaccinations across the state, recently opening vaccine eligibility across California for those above the age of 50 on April 1 and older than 16 by April 15, according to KABC.

The federal government still plans on considering the concept while following the lead of private businesses’ actions.

“Though the government has its own needs, so does the private sector, and other groups and the private sector are marching in that direction,” said Slavitt towards the end of his briefing. “It will be clear about how that will happen.”

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