By Xander Swain
As vaccines become increasingly available, and every adult being eligible as of April 19, the discussion of the pandemic has shifted towards “vaccine passports.”
Plans for vaccine passports have been spreading around the globe to ensure public safety as the fight against COVID-19 continues. It would require official documentation of vaccination, and potentially restrict people from entering certain businesses, countries, and deny certain services.
In America, every citizen already deals with some form of a vaccine requirement. Whether that be through requirements by schools and summer camps, or requirements for international travel, the idea of vaccination documentation isn’t a new one.
At the University of Montevallo, there is only one vaccine required by students, which is the measles vaccine. Other vaccines are only recommended by the University.
On April 6, the White House press secretary Jen Psaki said there will be no “federal vaccination database,” or required vaccination documentation. She continued, “Our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is American’s privacy and rights should be protected…”
However, multiple states have begun legislation, or signed executive orders, that ban the issuance of ‘vaccine passports,’ and other forms of government-issued vaccine documentation. This isn’t just for COVID-19, but every vaccine.
In Alabama, on April 8, the state senate passed Senate Bill 267, which prohibits the issuance of government vaccine passports. The bill also prohibits any entities or businesses from denying service to individuals based off of their immunization status.
The sponsor SB267, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said, “This bill is important for the civil liberties of Alabamians. Never before has healthcare information been kept by the government. Passing this bill will prevent that precedent.”
Public health information, and general healthcare information is kept and tracked by state and federal government public health agencies. Information sharing occurs between law enforcement, healthcare providers and other entities.
The level of dissemination of this information, and the specific amounts or types of information to the individual varies from state to state. This collection and use are for a number of different reasons, varying state to state, but can be tracked and used by the government to prevent, monitor, and stop disease outbreaks; this includes COVID-19.
However, there are numerous laws that differ between each local, state and even the federal government. Reasons for collection and use of medical information is a legally controversial topic. More information can be found out at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
Regarding the requirement of immunization for public schools, the bill allows “an institution of higher education [to] require a student or employee to prove that he or she has received vaccines required by the institution.”
However, this only applies to regular use vaccines approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. The bill does not allow higher education institutions to require vaccines that, “are only available via an emergency utilization authorization by the [FDA]…”
This means that COVID-19 vaccines can only be required by higher education when they receive regular authorization by the FDA, and go through the full process of testing.
There are exceptions to the requirement, including medical conditions or religious beliefs that prevent the individual from receiving a vaccine.
There are also exceptions to the bill for healthcare employees. This includes, “physicians, surgeons, dentists, medical institutions, or other health care providers…”
The bill passed the Senate 30-0.
After the Senate, the bill moved to the Alabama House Health Committee where it also passed unanimously on April 21. It now moves to the full House for the final votes.