Why 'vaccine passports' could be complicated to pull off in the U.S.

Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Christoforous and Alexis Keenan discuss travel measures amid the pandemic.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: As economies slowly reopen around the world, some governments are adopting mandatory vaccination certification programs. But how well would a vaccine passport go over here in the US? Alexis Keenan joins us now with the legal ramifications. And Alexis, I mean, this could be the next big political flashpoint, I think.

ALEXIS KEENAN: There's no doubt. There's already a lot of controversy in the UK over this, Alexis. And so, yeah, the question is, can the US government really step in and require Americans to prove their vaccination status through a vaccine passport. Legal experts say yes, but it might be a bit unlikely, at least on American soil. That's because while no law really prevents the government from adopting a program, it's the implementation that could be sticky. It draws concerns about privacy, about discrimination, even technically, given that we don't have a national healthcare system, and therefore, no database.

So the question is not really can the government do it, but if they legally collect it, which they could, how do they then collect it, store it? Who has access to that information, and what do they actually do with it? A good example is, how does the government ensure that your data is not shared with, let's say, police, immigration officers, employers? How does the government avoid discriminating against the people who don't yet have access to the vaccine? And particularly because we've already seen racial and ethnic minorities getting vaccinated at lower rates than some other groups.

Also, you could make the argument that younger Americans, who are at the end of the line, can't quite yet get vaccinated, and therefore, they could be discriminated against. And also, what activities are you going to keep Americans from doing who are not vaccinated? That is a big one. If the rule is, let's say, you don't have a pass and you have to stay in your house, well, that's probably not going to pass constitutional muster. If it's you can't board public transportation, well, maybe that one would be OK.

Now, for private entities, it's a really different story. So when you think about things like stores, sports complexes, concert venues, airlines, and restaurants, now they have a little bit more flexibility in order to take actions and really prevent people from coming onto their premises or using their services. And that's really their purview there to say unvaccinated people cannot come here. And that's because they do have some level to protect your health information, and others, too, other customers, let's say, that might come on into their businesses.

But there's a huge gap in the US law. Our laws really haven't contemplated the idea that while the business might need to protect your information and protect its customers, what about sharing your information with other customers? Because certainly, if there's a requirement there, other people are going to know your status if you're in a venue that says you can only come in if you're vaccinated.

Now, the state of New York has already tried a sort of a hybrid approach and it is requiring that major venues ensure that staff and guests get a negative COVID test within 24 hours. And we can show you there. It looks like this. It's an app system. Within 72 hours of attending any event, New York is saying that those venues have to make sure that folks have received a negative COVID test. So kind of putting it on the venues there and the state not really mandating it, but certainly, I could see this drawing some contention for the folks that don't necessarily want to follow this kind of rule.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Not going to be easy. Uncharted waters for sure for our legal system. Alexis Keenan, thanks so much.