The Biden administration revealed this week that it would work with industries in the private sector to build out a vaccine credential program that would enable people to prove they’ve been inoculated against COVID-19. Businesses that are struggling to reopen are pushing for the program, also called a vaccine passport, but it faces an uncertain future in the courts, say two Northeastern legal scholars who also worry that such a program could exacerbate existing inequities in the vaccine rollout.
But first, it will be important to clarify what, exactly, a vaccine passport would be used for, says Wendy Parmet, Matthews Distinguished Professor of Law at Northeastern.
“This term has been used to mean a lot of different things,” says Parmet, who also leads the Center for Health Policy and Law. “Requiring proof of vaccination to travel is one thing, mandating it for jobs or to attend a university is another, and needing a passport to go into the local Home Depot is yet another.”
Certain countries already require proof of vaccinations against various diseases before travelers can enter. Ghana and Brazil require travelers to be vaccinated against yellow fever. Other countries, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, require travelers to be inoculated against polio.