Will we see COVID-19 vaccine passports in the future? Here's what we know in Michigan

Posted at 7:12 AM, Apr 08, 2021

We've all seen the Instagram photos of people proudly holding their white COVID-19 vaccination cards – proof they've had their shot. But now, the question of a digital vaccine passport, or requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination, is sparking a lot of debate nationally and in Michigan.

Related: Are vaccine passports discriminatory? A local attorney weighs in

The Biden administration says it will not mandate a vaccine credential, nor has Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced plans to require a vaccine passport, as it's being called.

But, the same can't be said for private businesses, schools, concert venues, or even places we travel. Still, the issue of privacy and discrimination come up with the talk of passports.

MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said the state hasn't had discussions on vaccine passports.

“Right now, we want to make sure we’re getting vaccines out into the communities and to those people who want them and need them," she said.

Many Republican lawmakers around the country are sounding the alarm on the prospect of a digital vaccine credential, something to get those with COVID-19 immunity into large concert venues, sporting events, or as a means to travel to certain places.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned the use of passports in Florida, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott followed suit on the grounds of privacy and personal freedoms.

Michigan Republican Rep. Lisa McClain told 7 Action News, “Vaccine passports are another infringement on our personal liberties by revealing private health information. I strongly oppose any proposals that require Michiganders to show proof of vaccination in order to go about their day-to-day lives."

In New York, a digital app is rolling out which will show someone's proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

“In regard to what different vendors in the travel industry are deciding they’re going to do, that’s still up in the air a lot," David Fishman, president of Cadillac Travel, said. "Some countries have already said if you have a vaccine, you can come in. Some counties have said you need to be tested still to come in.”

Oakland University in Rochester announced this week it will require proof of vaccination of students prior to move-in in the fall, if they're living on campus.

Wright Lassiter III, the CEO of Henry Ford Health System, said he doesn't see "passport-only events" in Michigan's future.

"The biggest reason is, you still have challenges when you have a vaccine under Emergency Use Authorization versus full-blown FDA approval, so that’s one of the reasons for instance you don’t hear of employers requiring their employees to get vaccinated," he said.

The ACLU is also voicing concerns over the prospect of digital vaccine passports, due to potential discrimination and privacy. For that reason, the agency said any proposal for a vaccine credential should be primarily paper-based and decentralized.

The ACLU does say though there are legitimate circumstances in which people may be asked for proof of vaccination, it's worried about excluding people or turning into a "checkpoint society."

So far, the only action that could be taken would be on the state front, though not here in Michigan.