While the state of New York has officially implemented an “excelsior pass” for residents to gain entry to large venues in New York City, the Biden White House is working to develop a likewise “vaccine passport” for Americans to carry to prove they have received the COVID-19 vaccine, as first reported by The Washington Post.
“The passports are expected to be free and available through applications for smartphones, which could display a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass,” the Post reports. “Americans without smartphone access should be able to print out the passports, developers have said.”
The Post claims to have spoken with five administration officials who say coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients is playing a leading role in the effort. The Biden administration is reportedly working with undisclosed private entities to institute the program. When White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about vaccine passports on March 9, she did not provide a clear answer.
“We recognize that as many Americans get vaccinated, questions will come up, and they’re already starting to come up, as to how people will be able to demonstrate they are vaccinated,” Psaki said. “I think it’s important to remember only about 10 percent of the American population is vaccinated at this point. We’ve obviously made progress, but we have more work to do.”
While Psaki might have been unclear in Biden’s vaccine passport ambitions, the president signed an executive order in January urging government agencies “to assess the feasibility” of developing programs for COVID-19 documents for proof, as well as certificates. Upon this, 30 international airlines sent a letter to Zients demanding the administration take action on vaccine passports.
The reports out of the White House come a few days after New York state implemented vaccine passports that will be mandated by April 2. “Arts, entertainment, and event venues” will be mandated to receive proof that someone has been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID-19. Residents will have an app that displays a QR code to be scanned whenever entering an event venue designated as mandatory for proof.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York state’s “Pilot Program” on March 2. At first, the state was set to test the vaccine passports at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center. Now the state has moved on from this testing phase.
Slides obtained by the Post point to the government’s recognized need to balance national security and cyber warfare concerns with the new unprecedented initiative. U.S. officials who spoke to the outlet claim data privacy is a major consideration.
The Vaccination Credential Initiative is one of the major coalitions working to track vaccinations. Brian Anderson, who is leading the initiative, claimed vaccine passports would create an “environment to work safely.”
“The busboy, the janitor, the waiter that works at a restaurant, wants to be surrounded by employees that are going back to work safely — and wants to have the patrons ideally be safe as well,” said Anderson.“Creating an environment for those vulnerable populations to get back to work safely — and to know that the people coming back to their business are ‘safe,’ and vaccinated — would be a great scenario.”
Microsoft, Mayo Clinic, and more than 225 organizations have “pledged” to use the Vaccination Credential Initiative’s app, with which the World Health Organization and IBM are heavily involved. The Biden administration is reportedly deliberating on how to approach the rollout, and the role the White House will have in the effort is to be determined.
“I cannot say this forcefully enough: This is literally the end of human liberty in the West if this plan unfolds as planned. ‘Vaccine passport’ sounds like a fine thing if you don’t understand what these platforms can do,” said Naomi Wolf, author of “The End Of America,” on Fox News Monday. “I’m the CEO of a tech company. I understand what this platform does. It is not about the vaccine or the virus; it is about your data. What people need to understand is that any other functionality can be loaded onto that platform with no problem at all.”
The dystopian vaccine passport nightmare may very well become a reality, as the Biden administration flirts with tracking health records and forcing people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they wish to gain access to public life.