Illinois public health officials considering ‘vaccine passport’
Earlier this week, Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s public health commissioner, said the “Vax Pass” will be required to attend concerts and other summer events starting in May.
Days after Chicago officials floated the idea of requiring vaccine passports, Illinois public health officials revealed they’re also considering a “vaccine passport” for residents.
“Vaccinated individuals may want to be able to prove they have been vaccinated, especially if they misplace their CDC vaccination card,” Melanie Arnold, spokesperson for Illinois Department Public Health (IDPH) told reporters at the Daily Herald. “IDPH is working to provide this service to individuals.”
Earlier this week, Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s public health commissioner, said the “Vax Pass” will be required to attend concerts and other summer events starting in May as a means of incentivizing young Illinoisans to get vaccinated.
“You get a vaccine, you’ll be able to get into a concert or get into an event,” Arwady said. “(We’re) really thinking, particularly for younger people, how can we make vaccines something that people are excited about getting?”
The “Vax Pass” was one of many initiatives the city is pursuing to encourage vaccination, she said. Chicago will not require residents to get vaccinated, except to attend these events.
She said she views the idea as a public health measure: “We all want to put this behind us and getting people vaccinated is the way to do this, so I don’t think of it as a bribe.”
State officials in New York have pursued similar measures, recently unveiling a smartphone app that allows residents to prove their vaccination status.
Security experts and civil rights advocates, however, have argued incentives and implementing such programs would create an array of privacy and logistical concerns, particularly with digital passports.
“The concern there is (phone) apps often function in a way that collects information and location data about people, and we’ve always said no passport should be all digital,” said Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“There may be some benefit of a passport, but not to have it synced up to a device that tells everyone in the world where we are,” Yohnka said.
Currently, there is no standardized form of a vaccination card. Some Illinoisans receive cards, others paper sheets, and others only have it documented in their online medical records.
“The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that required Americans to carry a credential,” saideven White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, citing privacy concerns or the potential for vaccine passports to be “used against people unfairly.” .
The idea has even led to division between Illinois public health departments.
Spokesperson for Lake County Health Department Hannah Goering has stated: “Lake County is not pursuing having their own passport system. We are focusing our efforts on education at the grass-roots level to help address the causes of vaccine hesitancy.”
Cook County officials, on the other hand, are considering and “support a statewide vaccination passport program,” said agency co-lead Dr. Rachel Rubin.
The debate over the efficacy of vaccine passports will no doubt carry on as the nation emerges from COVID. And these questions about privacy, security and digital autonomy must be answered in a way that keeps as many Americans healthy as possible while protecting their fundamental freedoms.