RALEIGH — Since the end of March, Gov. Roy Cooper has said his administration is looking at creation of a so-called “COVID-19 vaccine passport” for North Carolina residents.
During a tour of a vaccination site in late March, Cooper said that “We want to be able to help people to be able to show others that they have gotten the vaccine, because a lot of people are going to want that,” and that “we are figuring that out now and we’re having discussions about the best way to do that.”
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) has called vaccine passports “ridiculous” and said he does not believe the government should mandate vaccinations.
In early April, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order banning such a passport while the legislature created a bill to permanently block them. Days later, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a similar order, and stated that “Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives.”
Around that same time, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he doubted the federal government would entertain such a document, and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on April 6 that a vaccine passport was a non-starter.
“Our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is American’s privacy and rights should be protected so that these systems are not used against people unfairly,” Psaki said.
The same day Psaki addressed reporters, Cooper held another virtual COVID-19 briefing at which he was asked about a North Carolina COVID-19 vaccine passport two times yet did not answer whether or not he was in favor of such an item.
Cooper told one reporter that “anybody who wants to get a record of their vaccine should be able to get that record.” He said that it was N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) was working on the “best and easiest way” for someone to be able to show proof of their vaccination.
The governor also said that “I think that is something the state should do” before turning the question over to NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, who said that they are collecting information about people’s vaccinations to make sure who has gotten their first and second shots.
“We just want to make sure that folks can access their own information about that vaccine for whatever purpose they may need. So, we are looking at different IT solutions to make that easy as possible for folks,” Cohen said. “We know there are a few states that have already done that. We are looking at a number of vendor partners that we can work within the next couple of weeks. Again, just to make things easy for folks to get their own information.”
The answer Cooper provided to the second reporter who asked about the passports was similar to his first, that they are “working on ways to easily be able to provide a record of a vaccine to anyone who wants it.”
“Obviously, you need to be careful with civil liberties and privacy, but we think that ought to be available to anybody who asks for it, and so the department [NCDHHS] is working on the best way to do that,” Cooper told the reporter.
North State Journal followed up after the April 6 briefing by emailing the governor’s office twice for clarification of his position. While NSJ received a notification that the email was read by staff, as of yet there has been no response.
Citizens worried about being forced to get a vaccination or vaccine passport may get some relief in a bill filed in the N.C. House.
House Bill 558, titled Prohibit Mandatory CV19 Vaccinations, was filed on April 15 with Reps. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) and Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) as the primary sponsors.
The bill would prohibit the state and its agencies from creating or imposing and kind of identification like a vaccine passport in order to travel, enter any public space or private property, or to do business in North Carolina. It would also block the governor from using an executive order to mandate a person be vaccinated and would give civil and criminal immunity to anyone refusing to receive a vaccination.
Additionally, the bill would enact new statutes, one of which gives citizens the private right to determine whether they or their children, or any person under their care, will receive a vaccine. Another would make it illegal to discriminate by requiring a vaccine passport or similar proof for use of public spaces and in the hiring and firing of employees.
Colleges, K-12 schools and childcare facilities in the state would be prohibited from questioning a person on their vaccination status as a condition of attendance. Similarly, occupational licensing boards, hospitals and nursing homes cannot refuse licenses, treatment or admittance based on a vaccination status.