California strays from COVID-19 'vaccine passport' with upcoming rollout of digital verification system 

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California plans to soon launch an electronic system that will let businesses verify whether their customers have received their COVID-19 vaccinations in an effort to side step concerns tied to the term "vaccine passport," according to a June 11 San Diego Union-Tribune report. 

The term "vaccine passport" has fueled political division and contributed to vaccine hesitancy among Republicans, according to Brian Castrucci, DrPH, and Frank Luntz. Dr. Castrucci and Mr. Luntz argued in an April 7 op-ed for CNBC that the concept of a vaccine passport is "a threat to the choice and freedom of those who may choose not to get vaccinated." 

More than 10 states have enacted bans to prevent COVID-19 vaccine passports.

When its tiered reopening system ends June 15, California is adopting masking guidelines that require those who remain unvaccinated to continue wearing face coverings indoors. Under the regulations, businesses have three options when interacting with unmasked customers and patrons: trust them when they say they are vaccinated; implement vaccine verification; or require everyone to wear a mask, according to the report. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom confirmed June 11 that the vaccine verification language in the new masking guidelines for businesses does refer to an effort to help private businesses verify vaccine status electronically. 

"We would look to help support those efforts and modernize the opportunities, and we'll be making some announcements very shortly in that space," he said, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune

Mr. Newsom did not disclose what form such an electronic verification system might take, whether a smartphone app, the existing state ID system or some other method. The choice to use the system will fall on each individual business.

 

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