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Gov. Kim Reynolds calls for ban of ’vaccine passports’
White House this week ruled out a federal system for proof of a COVID-19 inoculation
JOHNSTON — Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she wants legislation to prohibit “vaccine passports” in Iowa, citing her concern about potential action from the federal government to create a system that businesses and other entities could use to decide who can, for instance, safely travel or attend concerts.
Just a day earlier, however, the White House said there will be no federal vaccine passport system.
During a news conference Wednesday at Iowa PBS studios, the Republican governor expressed her staunch opposition to such vaccine passports. Although she was vague about what kind of prohibition she seeks, vaccine passports generally speaking are documents — perhaps provided over smartphone apps — that prove an individual has received the COVID-19 vaccine.
The idea has been gaining traction among businesses and schools as a way of assuring customers and reopening more broadly. However, this week the World Health Organization, citing equity concerns, said it was against mandatory proof of the vaccine for international travel. And so far, the Republican governors of Idaho, Texas and Florida have signed similar executive orders forbidding their state governments from requiring or issuing COVID-19 vaccine passports.
“Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve consistently put my trust in Iowans to do the right thing rather than demand or mandate it. And vaccination is no different,” Reynolds said Wednesday. “While I believe in the efficacy of the vaccine enough to get it myself and encourage Iowans to do the same, I also respect that it’s a personal choice. But I strongly oppose vaccine passports and I believe that we must take a stand as a state against them, which I intend to do.”
Reynolds said she will work with state lawmakers on passing a law still this legislative session, and if that is unsuccessful, she will issue an executive order. Reynolds said she wants a provision in place “based on what they would do at the federal level.”
But during a news briefing Tuesday at the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki ruled out a federal vaccine passport requirement.
“Let me be very clear on this — I know there’s been lots of questions: The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Psaki said. “There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
Reynolds cited myriad privacy concerns for her opposition to vaccine passports.
“I think there’s all kinds of questions that are raised with moving in that direction: privacy implications, (medical privacy), First and Fourth Amendment rights, Americans with disabilities. And I think what you’re doing when you move forward with something like that is you’re creating a two-tiered society, and you are either engaged or you’re marginalized,” Reynolds said.
Psaki said the discussion essentially started in the private sector, and she expects it to end there. She said the federal government will at some point provide public health guidance.
“There is a movement, as you know, in the private sector to identify ways that they can return to events where there are large swaths of people safely in soccer stadiums or theaters. That’s where the idea originated, and we expect that's where it will be concluded,” Psaki said. “We will be providing some guidance … that provides important answers to questions that Americans have, in particular around concerns about privacy, security, or discrimination, soon.”
The Washington Post contributed to this report.