Virus Outbreak Pandemic Passports

A man presents his “green passport,” proof that he is vaccinated against the coronavirus, on opening night at the Khan Theater for a performance where all guests were required to show proof of vaccination or full recovery from the virus, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021.

BOISE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little issued an executive order Wednesday banning state government from requiring or issuing COVID-19 “vaccine passports.”

The Republican governor also is preventing state agencies from providing information on an individual’s vaccine status to individuals, companies or government entities.

Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine have become the latest flashpoint in America’s perpetual political wars, with Republicans portraying them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices.

Little, who has gotten the vaccine, said he strongly encourages others to get vaccinated as well. But he said he has serious concerns that a vaccine passport requirement will violate medical privacy rights.

Vaccine passports, Little said, “create a different class of citizen. Vaccine passports restrict the free flow of commerce during a time when life and the economy are returning to normal. Vaccine passports violate individual freedom to chose the vaccine.”

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued a similar order on Wednesday, and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis did so on Friday.

The White House has ruled out a national “vaccine passport,” saying it is leaving it to up the private sector if companies want to develop a system for people to show they’ve been vaccinated.

All Idaho residents age 16 and older are now eligible to get the vaccine. About 70% of Idaho residents age 65 and over opted to get the vaccine.

State officials say more than 325,000 Idaho residents are fully vaccinated, and an additional 170,000 have received one dose of vaccines requiring two doses.

More than 180,000 people in Idaho have been infected with COVID-19, and nearly 2,000 have died. About 1.8 million people live in the state.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.