With COVID-19 vaccinations becoming more widely accessible across the U.S., it will only be a matter of time before companies fully throw themselves into getting back to "business as usual." To do that, they're going to need to be sure that the customers visiting their stores, theaters, arenas, and the like are fully vaccinated, or at the very least, have tested negative for the coronavirus. Enter the unofficially dubbed "vaccine passport."
On Saturday, The Washington Post and CNN reported that the Biden administration is working with the private sector on creating a vaccine passport program that would allow people to readily prove their COVID-19 vaccination or negative status via an app on their phones. The passport would be largely used for entry to arts and culture, entertainment, and sports venues, and, eventually, office spaces. The White House's effort to create and roll out the app is being led by the Department of Health and Human Services, according to five officials who anonymously spoke with the Post. The hypothetical passport, according to developers who also spoke with the Post, would look like a QR code that could be scanned in the app. Your COVID-19 vaccination or test result status would then be pulled up on-screen.
The White House's vaccine passport plan would be available to people throughout the U.S. and follow in the footsteps of New York state's already established Excelsior Pass. The Pass, which was launched as a pilot program by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier in March and officially as a downloadable app over the weekend, does what the Biden administration is looking to do with its eventual vaccine passport: allow New Yorkers to readily show their COVID-19 vaccination and negative test result status so they can safely enter businesses and venues. The New York state official website notes that Excelsior Pass results can be stored digitally in the app's Wallet or printed from the Pass' official website and brought with the user to their destination. Participation in the Excelsior Pass program is advertised as "voluntary" and that "New Yorkers can always show alternate proof of vaccination or testing, like another mobile application or paper form, directly at a business or venue."
Because the concept of a vaccine passport is still so new, there is no telling yet whether or not showing your passport app to enter certain venues or events will become mandatory in the future.
Should the Biden administration follow through on their vaccine passport plans, which haven't been confirmed, they would join the United Kingdom and the European Union, both of which have already announced their intention to create what they call a Digital Green Certificate, according to Insider. The Certificate would show whether the holder has been vaccinated against the virus, tested negative, or has recovered from infection.
In a press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki clarified that the vaccine passport development will be "driven by the private sector." "We're going to provide guidance, just as we have, through the CDC," Psaki told reporters. "There's currently an interagency process that is looking at many of the questions around vaccine verification."
Psaki added that the government will not require the vaccine passport. "There are a couple key principles that we are working from. One is that there will be no centralized, universal federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential."
This story has been updated to include Press Secretary Jen Psaki's comments.