What is a covid-19 vaccine passport and how would it work?

US opposes controversial vaccine passport 0:35

(CNN) – While millions of Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19 every day, a heated debate is taking place: Do these people need proof of immunization in the form of a vaccine passport?

Like a national passport, a vaccination passport could allow the bearer entry to a venue, such as a crowded concert, or to a foreign country that requires proof of vaccination in addition to a valid national visa and passport.

Vaccination cards from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are not the same as a vaccination passport. Although they are a record of what vaccine a person received and when, they can easily be falsified.

READ: Fauci does not believe that the US Government will promote health passports for vaccination against covid-19

What exactly is a vaccine passport?

A vaccine passport is just proof that a person has been immunized against COVID-19. It could be in the form of a smartphone app or a written certificate, for those who don’t have smartphones.

Some health experts argue that such proof of vaccination may be the ticket back to normalcy. You could reward people for getting vaccinated by allowing them to participate in a crowded concert or football game, and give them the peace of mind of knowing that the person next to them has also been immunized, helping crowded venues be safer.

New York was the first state to issue a digital vaccine passport using IBM’s Excelsior Pass app that displays a custom QR code that verifies the status of the vaccine. The state tested the app at a Brooklyn Nets basketball game and a New York Rangers hockey game last month.

But critics point to privacy concerns and overreach by authorities.

The governors of Florida and Texas have signed decrees banning vaccine passports. The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, signed a decree last week that prohibits any government entity from issuing them and companies from demanding them from their clients.

He cited privacy and personal freedom issues.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott this week signed an executive order that prohibits state agencies from requiring a vaccine for any service.

“The government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private medical information just to go about their daily life,” Abbott said in a video posted on Twitter.

Who issues vaccine passports?

There is a lot of talk and debate about passports, but hardly anyone is issuing them yet, although they are available in New York to vaccinated residents.

While the Biden administration has been trying to find a way to achieve a standard for vaccine certification, the federal government will not issue a vaccine passport, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

“The government does not and will not support now a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” Psaki told a news conference. “There will be no federal vaccine database and no federal mandate that requires everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

The Vaccination Credentials Initiative (VCI), a coalition of healthcare and technology companies, including Microsoft and Mayo Clinic, was founded just to put some kind of verification process in place.

“VCI’s vision is to empower people to obtain an encrypted digital copy of their vaccination credentials to store in a digital wallet of their choice,” the group said in a January press release announcing its founding. “Those without smartphones could receive paper printed with QR codes containing verifiable W3C credentials.”

Like it or not, people who want to travel abroad will soon need to have a vaccination passport to enter certain countries, or it can help them avoid quarantine once they arrive.

Israel has already instituted a vaccine passport, which allows holders to go to restaurants and gyms.

Britain and the European Union are considering vaccine passports, according to a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine. And Australia, Denmark and Sweden “have committed to its implementation.”

“Although eligibility to travel has been the main focus to date, the use of passports to regulate access to social and recreational gatherings, workplaces or schools seems imminent; Israel’s green passes, for example, allow entry to restricted sites such as hotels, gyms, restaurants, theaters and music venues, and New York’s ‘Excelsior Pass’ allows attendance at theaters, stadiums, event venues and weddings large, “according to the article.

READ: Some countries want to establish a “covid passport” for people vaccinated against covid-19. These are their proposals

Pros and cons of a vaccination passport

The pros and cons of requiring a vaccine passport were outlined by business owners and managers in Florida, where passports have been banned.

Rocco Mangel, owner of Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar in Delray Beach, said he has been vaccinated and would like others to be as well, but requiring his customers to have proof of vaccination to enter the restaurant “violates their rights,” he told her. to CNN.

“I think there would actually be people who were offended and there would be a perception that we are trying to rule them,” Mangel said.

But Judy Lisi, executive director of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida, says the governor’s ban can hurt business.

“If you think of mass gathering places, like theaters and stadiums and arenas, we are sitting next to each other,” Lisi said. “That is why it is really important to have a vaccination program as an option for our guests and for our artists.”

Critics of vaccination certificates cite privacy concerns, Lisi said, but “don’t people have the right to be safe? Do not people have the right, if they have received a vaccine, to come and know that other people have also been vaccinated? “

CNN’s Randi Kaye contributed to this report.