Vaccine Passports Already Exist

[ Posted Tuesday, March 30th, 2021 – 15:25 UTC ]

Every so often, a political issue rises to the fore and I just have to scratch my head and wonder at the sheer stupidity of it all. Not often -- usually even when an idea I don't agree with gains traction in the political debate, I can at least see the other side's reasoning. In other words, I may not agree with the proposed solution, but at least I can understand where the other side is coming from. But the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to more just flat-out stupid political fights than anything else in recent memory. Wearing a face mask is somehow a political statement? What a monumentally stupid idea! Last year, most of this came straight from the top, right out of the Oval Office. But Donald Trump is now just a sad shadow of his former political presence (he's taken to crashing weddings at his resort to whine about how put-upon he is politically, which is pretty sad indeed). So this time it's just free-floating Republican (or Libertarian) craziness.

I speak, of course, of the growing alarm in some of the more feverish right-wing fringes that some sort of "vaccine passport" is somehow going to be the Mark Of The Beast which will track everyone's movements everywhere and (as icing on the totalitarian cake) destroy capitalism forever with "corporate communism." I wish I were exaggerating, but sadly I am not. That "corporate communism" label is in quotation marks because it is a direct quote from the most deranged Republican to currently sit in the House of Representatives (I refuse to publicize her name, personally, so you'll have to figure it out on your own... sorry).

The fear is that some sort of smart phone app will be officially sanctioned somehow, and that once that's the case, businesses and other public venues will be able to instantly screen customers coming in so they can turn away those who have not been vaccinated. That's what's supposed to usher in the end of civilization as we know it. Nazi Germany (of course) has already been used by way of comparison. As has communism. Who knows what they'll say about it next?

Contrary to their fears, however, the White House confirmed that any such effort to create a digital app to verify vaccination status would be a private effort, not a governmental one. In other words, app developers and businesses are free to create anything they want, and people are free to adapt to it however they wish, but (crucially) the federal government will not be involved.

Now, you can argue whether this is a good thing or not. You can argue whether the idea of vaccine passports makes sense or not, and you can argue about whether it should be a government-run effort or not, too. Those are valid arguments to have. But the truly absurd thing about this entire political fracas is that vaccine identification cards already exist. People are arguing over something which has already automatically happened. And that is why it's all such a royally stupid fight.

I personally know this because I have one. It's only half full, since I am awaiting my second shot. But once I got it I started noticing friends and acquaintances posting photos of their own ID cards online (which, to be clear, is not a good idea, at least not without obscuring some of the personal info on it...). So I called around a bit today, to check in with people in various different states. Every single one of them told me the same thing -- everybody is getting a free "COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card" from the C.D.C.

In other words, this problem has already been solved. And the solution has already been implemented. It already happens automatically, when you get vaccinated. They just hand your official card to you, already filled out with the type of vaccine you got, perhaps the lot number of the vial it came from, the date, and an authorization.

This also is not that unusual. Vaccination records are nothing new -- ask any parent who has enrolled a child in a public school. They didn't have to invent some new system from scratch, in other words, they just adapted what already existed to the current emergency. Which is all fine and good.

So what, exactly, is the problem?

Any business or any other venue who is going to pass any rule about vaccinated customers is going to have to include using your C.D.C. card as valid proof of vaccination. They can't just limit it to smartphones and an app, because not everybody owns one (one in five Americans still do not have a smart phone, reportedly). So they're going to have to have some sort of paper equivalent. Which nobody will even need to create; again, because it already exists.

There may be civil liberties complaints and problems with instituting any kind of vaccination checks. Perhaps data from the app will get misused somehow. These are indeed valid concerns (for libertarian-minded people). And, like I said, for those without a smart phone or for those unwilling to use the app, there has to be a paper alternative available. People must be given the choice, really. And any business that limits itself to only serving vaccinated customers is going to opening itself to a backlash (and, perhaps, lawsuits). Such is the nature of our society.

But please note that all of the preceding paragraph deals only with the private sector. Because this just is not a governmental problem. Republicans are -- quite obviously -- trying to make it into a big political issue, screaming as loudly as possible in the hopes that this will be yet another culture war wedge issue they can exploit politically (which, of course, is the whole point, to them). But the issue is so monumentally stupid at its heart, which will mean Democrats can afford to completely take a pass on this whole fight. All Democratic members of Congress should say in response to any hysterical fears is: "Vaccine identification? No, nobody here is even working on that. Because it already exists. The C.D.C. already hands out a vaccination ID card to everyone. So what's the problem?"

Maybe that will nip this stupidity in the bud. One can only hope....

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


9 Comments on “Vaccine Passports Already Exist”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I guess this is what a party does when it doesn't have any good ideas to advance the progress of a community, society or country, let alone planet.

    If Biden keeps on pushing his new definition of bipartisan forward through both his words and actions, then the Republican party may just be left in the dust if they don't change their ways.

  2. [2] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    One can only hope that the government's decision at this point not to sponsor an official, hack-proof, electronic 'passport' app is wise.

    I too have my CDC type card, and it couldn't be more forgeable. If the 'passports' become some kind of key to privilege and services, the black market in fakes will explode. Of course the same could be said about any smart-phone app - they are remarkably ease to hack, so I hear.

    Hopefully states and cities will stick to public health records that establish when a local caseload is low enough to start relaxing restrictions on public gatherings. A passport-based system - you, but not you - promises a massive level of both inequity and fraud.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I too have my CDC type card, and it couldn't be more forgeable.

    Yeah, John ... that was my first thought, too.

    The CDC would have to work on a new less, or non-forgeable card, if possible ...

    I know the WHO and its partners are working on a way to digitalize vaccination records.

  4. [4] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Nope, this is a "wedge issue" nothingburger, just like how not wearing a mask makes you own the libs.

    This is all the Repugs in Disarray" have to offer to the 38% of 'Muricans wha' vote Repugs come hell or high water.

    Yep, the Dems should take a moment to slap this silliness down and thence go back to Cleanup on Aisle Trump so they win the midterms

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Get stuff done = spank down the Repugs in '22

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Repugs are defending 22 out of the 33 contested Senate seats next year. 5 Repugs are retiring. No Repugs voted for Stimulus and several voted against our free and fair Presidential election last year...

    Do the math.

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    math? what conservative would deign to do math?

    i was told there would be no math.
    ~chevy chase (as gerald ford), snl

  8. [8] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Got my Vaccine Card a few days ago here, in Washington State. My dad has the same type of card in Georgia.

  9. [9] 
    TheStig wrote:

    The Republican Party has successfully transitioned from political party to mental illness.

Comments for this article are closed.