By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.J. — As New Jersey and the United States’ COVID-19 vaccination begins to welcome all residents aged 16 and older, lots of discussion will focus on whether or not vaccinations should be a prerequisite to participate in certain activities or go to certain places. Senator Michael Testa (R-1) has introduced legislation that would ban “vaccine passports” from being utilized in New Jersey.
Essentially, a “vaccine passport” would require community members to show some form of proof that they’ve been inoculated against COVID-19 in order to gain access to certain businesses and activities. Sen. Testa’s bill would prohibit New Jersey or any of its political subdivisions from requiring private businesses to confirm an individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status.
“No Government entity should require their residents to carry a ‘Vaccine Passport’ around to gain access to schools, businesses, and their daily life,” Sen. Testa said in a statement. “These types of passports completely violate an individual’s right to personal freedoms, and they are a direct violation of HIPPA laws. The rapid erosion of individual privacy rights threatens the liberties and freedoms of every New Jersey resident.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced an Excelsior Pass program that allows people to prove their COVID-19 vaccination status (or a negative COVID-19 test) via an app on their mobile phones. To date, New York is the only state that has instituted any program similar to the concept of a “vaccine passport.”
One obvious upside of a “vaccine passport” program would be the simple fact that, if the state introduces a similar program to New York’s Excelsior Pass, New Jerseyans would have some level of assurance that they aren’t at risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 in a given public setting. However, an equally obvious downside that Sen. Testa noted in his bill is individual privacy — particularly pertaining to health records.
“There is a balance between protecting public health without violating American Constitutional Rights,” he said in a statement. “Time and time Governor Murphy has crossed the line and we must ensure he is barred from enacting ‘Vaccine Passports.’”
As of Tuesday morning, New Jersey has administered 6,151,001 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine models, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard. Of those, 2,547,397 New Jersey residents have received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine models (or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson model), making them fully inoculated against COVID-19. The state is currently on track to meet its goal of fully vaccinating 4.7 million adult residents by the beginning of summer.
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