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U.S. Government Does Not Plan To Mandate Vaccine Passports

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now that millions of people are vaccinated and millions of others are not, should you be asked to show a vaccine passport? That's a popular term for a document that shows you got your COVID shots. The U.K. is piloting such a system, though the government avoids the phrase vaccine passport. Civil liberties advocates, including some in the United States, raised concerns about discrimination. Dr. Anthony Fauci told Politico the federal government is unlikely to require these passports.

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ANTHONY FAUCI: You could foresee how an independent entity might say, well, we can't be dealing with you unless we know you're vaccinated, but it's not going to be mandated from the federal government.

INSKEEP: The nonprofit organization The Commons Project foundation tried to develop a form of the passport. And Paul Meyer, the CEO of that organization, joins us. Good morning.

PAUL MEYER: Good morning.

INSKEEP: I just want to note, when I travel overseas now, there is this yellow sheet of paper with my vaccinations, other vaccinations that another country might ask me to show at passport control. Is that how a vaccine passport would work?

MEYER: Yeah, exactly and certainly the precedent for this. But right now, most countries in the world have testing requirements. So this is currently in use. For example, right now, you can use CommonPass to fly to Aruba and satisfy Aruba's testing requirements. So it's happening right now for testing, and certainly vaccination requirements certainly seem to be arriving, at least with international travel.

INSKEEP: And then your idea, I guess, is a phone app with one of those QR codes. So you just scan it at passport control and everybody would have the same system. Is that your notion?

MEYER: Yeah, it's not an idea. It's working today. So on all flights, for example, on Lufthansa from Germany into the U.S., people are using CommonPass. People are using it to fly to Aruba, soon to fly to Hawaii. So people use CommonPass to connect to a lab or soon to get their vaccination records. They have their information on the phone, and then they can use that information to show that they meet the requirements of their destination without actually having to hand over the information itself. So that's how it serves to protect your data privacy.

INSKEEP: Oh, so you're saying it actually - it gives a little more privacy rather than the opposite.

MEYER: Well, exactly. We don't think you should have to hand over your health records to an airline just to take a flight. But we think there is, you know - and certainly some countries have put requirements in place that you need to actually prove that either you've been tested or you've been vaccinated. So we're trying to let you do that but do it in a way that protects your privacy.

INSKEEP: OK, we're talking about international travel here, which is a fairly simple case because you're already required in many cases to show your vaccinations. There's already a system. It's already a thing that we do. Does it become more complicated, though, if we talk about domestic use, requiring someone to show that on a domestic U.S. flight or to get into a movie theater or some other big event?

MEYER: Well, I think there's also some precedent. I mean, most schools in the country require parents to produce their kids' immunization records every September. Most summer camps do it as well, so, you know - and some school districts. I think Los Angeles already announced that they would require vaccination certificates, proof of vaccination to return to school. So this is just like the Yellow Card international travel, something that's been done with other vaccines previously. And I think we expect that, you know, some employers, some schools, some businesses will make that decision. But ultimately, that's a decision that communities and institutions are going to make for themselves.

INSKEEP: But let me give you a chance to respond to the rather overheated language on this on social media or in right-wing television. And you can understand where people are coming from. They kind of have this fear of the kind of show-me-your-papers kind of state. Is there a point at which this would become intrusive?

MEYER: Well, I think the other way to think about it is there are a lot of things that people are keen to get back to. And being able to demonstrate they and the people that they're going to be with have actually either been tested or been vaccinated is an important in a way of giving people the freedom to get back to normal life.

INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Meyer, thanks so much, really appreciate your time.

MEYER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Paul Meyer is the CEO of The Commons Project, which developed an app that is a kind of vaccine passport. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.