In late March, a giddy Andrew Cuomo addressed New Yorkers regarding the launch of the “Excelsior Pass”: the nation’s first functional vaccine passport system. While participation is optional, the technology allows establishments access to a streamlined process through which they are able to access patrons’ immunization records. As the New York Department of Health describes it:
“Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones… which participating businesses and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination.”
As part of this initial launch, participating New Yorkers may choose to use Excelsior Pass to verify their COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results as needed to gain entry to major stadiums and arenas, wedding receptions, or other events above the social gathering limit.”
The Biden administration has also been working with private companies regarding similar initiatives on the national level, with the administration identifying at least 17 vaccine passport systems currently under development.
There are several issues that immediately arise concerning the widespread implementation of vaccine passports.
First, they embolden venues already seeking to mandate vaccination as a condition for entry. Those who have been vaccinated and can show documentation will be able to access them at will, while those who have not will swiftly be denied service. This will indirectly create a two-tiered system of public accommodation in which vaccination status determines the degree to which we are able to partake in everyday life – this was the main case made by Florida governor Ron DeSantis as he signed off on a vaccine passport ban early last month.
Second, and perhaps most troublingly, vaccine passports also raise the issue of politicians abusing the private sector to achieve their political ends on COVID policy.
Simply put, it is debatable at best as to whether the government possesses the authority to mandate vaccination or to mandate proof of vaccination to be used to access private venues. People like Andrew Cuomo are fully aware of this; however, they reckon constraints on power to be merely a roadblock standing in the way of their political ends.
What Democratic leaders also realize is that while no government policy, either through the legislature or executive fiat, can legally mandate vaccination without rehashing significant constitutional concerns, private venues can. Due to the fact that private venues reserve the right to refuse service based on vaccination status, their vaccine passport requirements would, at least in the eyes of the Democrats trying to sell the concept, act as an extension of the free market.
In turn, what we are seeing is politicians winking and nodding at the private sector, creating incentives for them to implement these policies on their behalf. In the passage atop this article, the Cuomo administration’s health department explicitly stated the adoption of vaccine passports is meant to be a catalyst for further relaxation of New York’s current capacity limits – this is a significant incentive for businesses that have hemorrhaged money over the past twelve months because of those limits.
This alone shows the paper-thin facade of vaccine passports as a market force to be based on blatant falsehood. An extension of the free market does not entail what is essentially bribery by politicians promising to lift restrictions if businesses do what they want.
Instead, what these vaccine passport initiatives are is what they appear to be on the surface – a means for politicians like Joe Biden and Andrew Cuomo to get as close as they can to implementing the draconian COVID measures for which they clearly long while staying out of court to the best of their ability. That is their endgame right now, and that is what their endgame will continue to be as we continue spiraling down the path of civil liberties coming second to demagogic policy – something to which we have grown uncomfortably accustomed over the past year.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.