Why GOP governors are driving a fight over ‘vaccine passports’

The Fix’s Peter Stevenson analyzes the emerging political fight over vaccine “passports” and how it is becoming the latest pandemic flash point.

Video Transcript

PETER STEVENSON: The Biden administration has made a lot of progress on vaccinating Americans. We're now at more than 100 million Americans who have at least one dose of the vaccine. And the attention now is beginning to turn to how the United States is going to move on next. A component of that is people being able to show that they've had the vaccination doses that they need.

JOE BIDEN: The virus is spreading because we have too many people who see the end in sight, think we're at the finish line already. But let me be deadly earnest with you. We aren't at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do. We're still in a life-and-death race against this virus.

PETER STEVENSON: The Biden administration has been working with state governments and companies to devise ways for people to prove this. The biggest way they've done it so far is by designing apps, AS companies have started using them, as states have started using them. Other states-- particularly those controlled by Republican governors-- have begun to object to this.

GREG ABBOTT: Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives. That is why I issued an executive order that prohibits government-mandated vaccine passports in Texas.

RON DESANTIS: It's completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society.

PETER STEVENSON: The governors of Texas and Florida have released orders saying-- essentially, banning these vaccine passports in their state. What they essentially have said is any company that requires a vaccine passport for any reason can't receive state funding. It's an interesting decision for these states because requiring vaccinations is actually not a new thing. Children in both states are actually required to receive vaccinations, but for attending school.

Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, and Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, have both said that these orders are primarily about medical privacy. But they should also be looked at in the broader context of what these governors are doing to try to reopen their state.

GREG ABBOTT: All businesses of any type are allowed to open 100%. Also, I'm ending the statewide mask mandate.

PETER STEVENSON: The country is about to run into a period where everyone who wants a vaccine has gotten one, and the next task is convincing people who haven't gotten their vaccines to go ahead and take their shots. Now it's possible that some people who could be convinced would be less likely to do that if they're worried that there's some kind of government tracking system about whether they've been vaccinated or not.

The flip side of that, though, is if people are required to get vaccines in order to participate in activities, people might be more likely to get those vaccines, according to public health experts.