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GOP mounts fight against ‘COVID-19 passports’

A COVID-19 vaccination card is displayed at the Banning Recreation Center Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Wilmington, Calif. The site switched from its original plan to use the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 to the Pfizer vaccine. California's pause on using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as federal agencies examine a possible and rare side effect is unlikely to affect vaccination efforts in the nation's most populous state as it moves to start inoculating people 16 and older this week. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A COVID-19 vaccination card is displayed at the Banning Recreation Center Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Wilmington, Calif. The site switched from its original plan to use the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 to the Pfizer vaccine. California's pause on using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as federal agencies examine a possible and rare side effect is unlikely to affect vaccination efforts in the nation's most populous state as it moves to start inoculating people 16 and older this week. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

A COVID-19 vaccination card is displayed at the Banning Recreation Center Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Wilmington, Calif. The site switched from its original plan to use the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 to the Pfizer vaccine. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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UPDATED 7:31 AM PT – Thursday, April 15, 2021

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) is one of many Republicans opposed to the idea of a vaccine passport. He and other like minded people have called it a government overreach and think Americans have the right to decide for themselves if they want a vaccine.

“For those who have the vaccines, what do they have to worry about? Why do they care about someone else who does not have a vaccine?” Hice asked. “If they’re vaccinated they feel safe, that’s their business.”

The credentials would require individuals to show proof of vaccination in order to access businesses or events. Proponents see it as one of the ways to beat the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think particularly for some private sector settings, it could be a really valuable tool,” said New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio (D). “I think government has a role to play in setting it up and making it work.”

Meanwhile, critics argue it would set a dangerous precedent. Hice, along with a group of more than two dozen Republicans, are pushing a bill that would prevent any federal money from going towards the implementation of vaccine passports at the state and local level.

The legislation is unlikely to move through Congress as no Democrats support it, but last week the White House maintained its leaving it up to private businesses and states to decide.

“There will be no federal vaccinations data base and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” stated White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Nonetheless, skepticism remains among GOP members of Congress.

“It is no place of the federal government to come in and force people to do it with penalty of not being able to exercise their normal routine life,” Hice argued.

The debate over vaccine passports is just as polarizing among Americans. A new poll by Morning Consult showed that while more than 60 percent of adults approve of a digital document to show they are vaccinated, only 40 percent favor it as a requirement.

New York state has a voluntary vaccine passport program while a growing number of red states like Texas and Florida are barring them all together.

A syringe filled with the Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is seen net to a vaccination card at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Vaxmobile, is a COVID-19 mobile vaccination unit, sponsored by a partnership between Mount Sinai South Nassau and Town of Hempstead to bring the one-dose vaccine directly to hard-hit communities in the area. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

A syringe filled with the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is seen net to a vaccination card at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

 

The challenge facing some states is getting the right information out to people, so they aren’t discouraged from getting vaccinated. Some elected officials think that responsibility partly falls on Big Tech and the media.

“We are going to rely on the science-driven, data-driven,” explained Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez (R). “And often times, unfortunately, some in the media choose to ignore what is the science and data-driven when its not convenient to their narrative.”

Nuñez said their no-mandate approach is working and noted more than 70 percent of the state’s seniors have been vaccinated with an overall 43 percent vaccination rate.

As more vaccine doses become available across the country, it’s a race to herd immunity either by recovering from the virus or getting a vaccine.

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