Health experts are pressuring the Biden administration to promote the use of COVID-19 vaccine orders and passports, after the White House ruled out implementing such measures on the federal level.
In April, the White House emphatically said no to mandating federal COVID-19 vaccine passports and argued that the rights and privacy of citizens should be protected. “The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
Psaki didn’t discourage the private sector from using vaccine passports and implementing individual policies, but health experts say the administration should push for such measures to protect citizens and fast-track a return to life before the pandemic.
“The Biden administration shouldn’t be so squeamish about vaccine verification,” George Washington University public health professor Leana Wen said, according to The Hill.
“There are a lot of people in the middle. They’re not eager to get the vaccine, but they’re also not anti-vaxxers. They need an additional push. And that push is still not there, because we have not been requiring proof of vaccination in order to return to normal,” Wen added.
Amesh Adalja, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, criticized the Biden administration for not doing more to encourage vaccine passports, such as implementing a standardized vaccine tracker for companies and individuals that would benefit from it.
“The idea of trying to have a kind of vaccine certificate or some way to prove your vaccination status, I think this is something that the government should have anticipated and thought through early on,” Adalja said, The Hill reported, “and made some way to make this easy to verify, instead of those flimsy cards they give you.”
Vaccine passports are credentials that holders can use to prove their vaccinated or health status to businesses and venues. Like masks and vaccines, such passports have become controversial and politicized in America.
In April, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, issued an executive order banning businesses from refusing unvaccinated people service or entry to an event. “So-called COVID-19 vaccine passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy,” read DeSantis’ order.
A week later, Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting local agencies in the state from mandating vaccine passports.
Proponents argue that such documents are necessary to limit individuals’ exposure to the virus, while critics have called it discriminatory.
New York State recently launched its Excelsior Pass, a voluntary vaccine passport app that has already been adopted by numerous businesses and event organizers.
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment. This story will be updated with any response.