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Now that President Biden’s vaccination plan will soon allow every American to receive the shot no later than May 1, businesses will soon require proof of inoculation before allowing customers into their establishments. To help Americans transition back into everyday life, the Biden administration may launch a new “vaccine passport” program.
However, the rollout could potentially ostracize underserved communities that are treated at lower rates.
According to New York Magazine, the program is only in the planning stages as officials in the Department of Health and Human Services coordinate between government agencies, businesses requiring vaccine passports, and companies that create the services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tasked with determining “which organizations will credential and issue the certificates, in addition to informing the public.” At the same time, the World Health Organization will focus on a vaccine certification program.
Officials are preparing to reveal the plan with governors in a week.
With the vaccine passports intended for rollout on smartphone apps, the program would leave poor and BIPOC communities disadvantaged, a group reportedly facing lower vaccination sign-up rates despite intervention through federal government and state programs. Additionally, wealthy countries in the West are hoarding vaccines by bulk-buying contracts for future production, thus hindering developing nations from rolling out their own mass vaccination programs.
If the program launches without fully addressing the communities and nations hit hardest by the virus, it runs a risk of leaving them behind, which will cause more damage than good in the long run.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration is determined to launch the passport program successfully, hoping to avoid joining the long list of botched or stalled coronavirus initiatives since the pandemic started. A lot is riding on its success. If the program fails, it could “hamper our pandemic response by undercutting health safety measures, slowing economic recovery, and undermining public trust and confidence,” read one slide from a March presentation from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
The passport rollout is also an international effort. The European Union is planning its own electronic pass just in time for peak travel season this summer. Israel has started their version, but with “green passes” intended for travel and attending events.
As for the U.S., New York is the first to pilot a program through the Excelsior Pass app that validates health status either through proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test, much like an airline boarding pass.
If the government launched a vaccine passport program, would you download the app and use it? Let us know in the comment section!