Reynolds vows to prohibit ‘vaccine passports’ in Iowa

By: - April 7, 2021 3:14 pm

A Department of Health and Human Services employee holds a COVID-19 vaccine record card Nov. 13, 2020, in Washington D.C. (Photo by EJ Hersom/U.S. Department of Defense)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she plans to take legislative or executive action to forbid the use of “vaccine passports” to prove individuals had received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Reynolds encouraged Iowans to get vaccinated as soon as possible, taking whichever form of the vaccine they could find. But, she emphasized, deciding to be vaccinated is a personal choice and would not be required by the state.

“Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve consistently put my trust in Iowans to do the right thing rather than demand or mandate it, and vaccination is no different,” she said during a news conference.

That’s where so-called vaccine passports come into play. Republicans nationwide have raised concerns that airlines, schools, businesses or restaurants could require proof of vaccination, barring those who choose to remain unvaccinated from participating. 

“I strongly oppose vaccine passports and I believe that we must take a stand as a state against them, which I intend to do, either through legislation or executive action,” Reynolds said.

Several Republican governors have already issued executive orders to prohibit proof-of-vaccination requirements. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis barred businesses and governmental agencies from asking for proof of a vaccine. The order also includes universities, the Washington Post reported, which are no longer allowed to require students to be vaccinated for the fall semester. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a similar order for state agencies and institutions that receive state money.

“Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives,” Abbott said in a Twitter video.

Reynolds did not say whether her legislative proposal or executive order would include private businesses.

“I think what you’re doing when you move forward with something like (a vaccine passport) is you’re creating a two-tiered society: you’re either engaged or you’re marginalized,” she said.

The White House has said Americans will not be required to carry proof of vaccination

“There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. 

Psaki noted that the idea of a vaccine mandate originated in the private sector as a potential way to return to business more safely, especially for large gatherings. She said the federal government will provide guidance on the privacy, security and discrimination concerns related to vaccination status.

Vaccination rollout continues, but Johnson & Johnson shortage expected this month

Vaccination appointments opened for all Iowans 16 or older on Monday. This week also saw the biggest vaccine allocation to date, Reynolds said, including over 45,000 one-and-done Johnson & Johnson doses. Some of those doses will be used to vaccinate college students.

“We’re ensuring college students and young adults are vaccinated as soon as possible, and that will help keep the virus activity low and manageable until a higher percentage of Iowans are fully vaccinated,” Reynolds said.

But there’s a speed bump ahead: There will be a “significant reduction” in the one-shot Johnson & Johnson doses over the next few weeks. Allocations will remain low for two weeks.

Reynolds also highlighted efforts to reach out to Iowa’s minority communities who so far have significantly lower vaccination rates than the state as a whole. As of April 5, 11% of Black Iowans and 11.7% of Hispanic or Latino Iowans had received at least one dose. Nearly 19% of Asians had received at least the first dose. 

Overall, 34% of the population in Iowa has received at least their first shot, according to New York Times data.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.