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What are COVID-19 vaccine passports and will we see them in the future? Here’s what we know so far

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Getting your shot doesn't mean an immediate return to normal life, but to fast-track a return to public spaces. One recommendation is the idea of so-called "vaccine passports." There is now a debate growing over -- do these people need proof of immunization in the form of a vaccine passport?

A vaccine passport is just proof that a person has been immunized against COVID-19. It could be in the form of a smartphone app or a written certificate, for those who don't have smartphones.

New York was the first state to issue a digital vaccine passport using IBM's Excelsior Pass app. An app used to prove your immunization status or a recent negative COVID test.

The White House says they won't mandate anything at the federal level, because these decisions are best made in the private sector. White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki said in a press conference on Tuesday, "The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential," adding, "There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential."

The White House says they will be providing some guidance which will look like an FAQ. No date has been given for the release of this guidance.

ABC21 spoke with PFW Politics Professor, Andy Downs had this to say "A lot of this comes down to business. If a business decides it is to their benefit for them to be able to say to all of their customers, "we know all the people in here have been vaccinated", they should go ahead and do that. Unfortunately, we're still involved in the pandemic, and some of the tension that exists because of that is still present, and this is viewed as another invasion into people's privacy or taking away a freedom from them."

As for school, it's nothing new to require certain shots for admittance…. Or governments for international travel.

So what's different this time? No COVID-19 vaccine has received full FDA approval, only emergency use authorization.This makes the prospect of mandating it legally cloudy.

The governors of Florida and Texas have signed executive orders banning vaccine passports. Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, argues it infringes on individual freedoms and would quote "Create two classes of citizens."

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

On Wednesday, The University of Notre Dame said it will require all students returning to campus to be fully vaccinated, but will accommodate medical or religious exemptions.

Fort Wayne Attorney, James Fenton (Fletcher Van Gilder LLP), says if someone were to challenge a vaccine requirement, it would need to be based on sincerely held religious beliefs. He says that would have standing in court. He also says that airlines and cruise lines pose their own set of legal gray areas.

"Airlines, particularly foreign airline traffic is probably going to end up requiring some kind of proof of vaccination. Other countries are going to require it and the airlines are going to want to bring their people into the United Kingdom, France, or some place. Cruise lines, generally speaking would like to have everyone on board that ship vaccinated. And ports that they visit in the Caribbean may also require that there be vaccination before people can visit. One interesting legal issue I think is, will the Florida governor's order that businesses cannot require vaccination apply to cruise lines, many of them sail out of Fort Lauderdale."

Indiana State, Rep John Jacob (R), introduced an amendment to a senate bill Thursday morning that would make it illegal for local governments or businesses to require proof of vaccination.

Stay with ABC21 as we will continue to follow this "Vaccine Passports" story.

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Tony Betton Jr.

Tony Betton Jr. is the ABC21 weekend morning anchor/producer and serves as a multimedia journalist during the week. He is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter (@TonyBettonJrTV) and on Facebook (@TonyBettonJrNews).

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