SEATTLE — Medical experts are urging caution as companies and some governments advance plans for COVID-19 "vaccine passports." Supporters of the idea said the credentials are a way to prove someone has been vaccinated, allowing that person to visit certain venues or travel internationally.
But some medical experts, including expecters at the World Health Organization (WHO), said the passports could reinforce inequalities or impede on personal freedoms.
“If we're requiring vaccines to do all kinds of things, is our system for getting vaccines fair? And I think it's established that it's not,” said Nancy Jecker, a UW Medicine bioethicist.
Jecker said COVID-19 vaccination would not guarantee someone's safety.
“I think vaccine passports are not the way to go, and they pose a risk to public health, potentially, if they create a false sense of protection," said Jecker. "People start to take off their masks and mingle."
The Biden administration has said Americans will not be required to carry a vaccine passport.
The Washington Department of Health said it was not aware of any conversations about coronavirus vaccine passports at the state level.
It is possible that companies operating arenas, theaters and other spaces where crowds gather, could require people to prove they're protected.
New York state just unveiled a digital pass that shows proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Several other U.S. states, including Texas and Florida, have already banned vaccine passports.
However, other countries are moving ahead with passport plans to revive cross-border travel while keeping the virus under control.
The WHO said countries should be "exceptionally careful" in issuing vaccination certificates because vaccine access varies widely.
“We need to be very, very careful that the process of certifying vaccination does not result in personal freedoms or human rights being impeded in any way that is not justified,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, with the WHO.