New mask guidelines reignite potential need for vaccine passports

Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear masks or follow social distancing guidelines in most indoor settings, according to CDC guidance issued May 13. But how will they prove their vaccination status?

Some public health officials have floated the idea of "vaccine passports," which refer to the programs being developed to digitally verify individuals' vaccination status, as the paper cards the CDC issues to vaccine recipients are easy to forge and difficult to carry in a wallet.

There is no national or international standard for COVID-19 vaccination verification, nor is there a federal database of who has received their vaccine. As states drop their mask mandates, the question of which unmasked individuals have been vaccinated and which have not will likely remain a mystery in everyday retail and dining interactions. 

Retail chains such as WalMart, Costco and Trader Joe's have already said vaccinated shoppers no longer need to wear masks in their stores and that they will not require proof of vaccination, according to CNN.

Several states, such as Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Arizona, have banned or restricted the use of vaccine passports on the state level and for some businesses.

Some businesses, such as cruise lines, air lines and venues hosting large events, may soon adopt digital COVID-19 vaccination verification tools. However, the lack of a centralized COVID-19 vaccination database and states' legislative blocks mean the use of digital tools in most retail or dining establishments is unlikely, Rachael Piltch-Loeb, PhD, a public health researcher at New York University, told USA Today.


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