LOS ANGELES - Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said he does not believe the federal government will mandate the use of vaccine passports for traveling or businesses post-pandemic.
Fauci discussed vaccine passports with FOX 11's Elex Michaelson on Friday night's episode of The Issue Is.
"I don’t think you’re gonna see a federal government mandate about that, it might be on the local level though," Fauci said.
Vaccine passports have been widely discussed in recent months as states continue to ease COVID-19 restrictions. Vaccine passports are typically an app with a code that verifies whether someone has been vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19. Officials say getting vaccinated and having proper documentation will smooth the way to travel, entertainment and other social gatherings in a post-pandemic world. They are in use in Israel and under development in parts of Europe, seen as a way to safely help rebuild the pandemic-devastated travel industry.
"Does that make sense practically, scientifically, legally?" Michaelson asked Fauci.
"You know, you just gave the three words that have different answers," Fauci said.
"From the standpoint of practicality, there is merit to that," Fauci explained. "There are a lot of concerns and objections about discrimination for people who don’t, or big brother looking over you and giving you the right or not to enter into a theatre or restaurant, it’s a very controversial issue right now."
Vaccine passports have raised concerns about dividing the world along the lines of wealth and vaccine access, creating ethical and logistical issues for decision-makers around the world.
"But you can understand, that there may be individual, independent entities — not at the level of the federal government — but there may be some school districts that say, ‘unless you’re vaccinated, you can’t get in,’ or, some places of employment that say, ‘unless you’re vaccinated, you can’t come in,’" Fauci explained.
There are already several private-sector initiatives creating passports. The Vaccination Credential Initiative is a coalition trying to standardize tracking data of vaccination records in an attempt to speed up a return to normal.
President Biden’s administration has largely taken a hands-off approach on vaccine passports.
At a news conference this week, Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said he considered them a project for the private sector, not the government.
Just last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said that he would issue an executive order forbidding local governments and businesses from requiring vaccine passports to show proof that customers have been inoculated against the coronavirus.
"It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply participate in normal society," DeSantis said.
GOP senators in Pennsylvania are also drawing up legislation that would prohibit vaccine passports from being used to bar people from routine activities.
"We have constitutional rights and health privacy laws for a reason," said Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican. "They should not cease to exist in a time of crisis. These passports may start with COVID-19, but where will they end?"
A Democratic colleague, Rep. Chris Rabb of Philadelphia, sees value in vaccine passports if they are implemented carefully.
"There’s a role for using technology and other means to confirm people’s statuses," Rabb said. "But we do have concerns around privacy, surveillance and inequitable access."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.