Idaho governor bans mandated COVID-19 ‘vaccine passports’

Idaho Gov. Brad Little issued an executive order Wednesday banning state government from requiring or issuing so-called COVID-19 "vaccine passports."

The Republican governor in his order also prohibited state agencies from providing information on people’s vaccine status to other people, companies or government entities.

Little, who has received the vaccine, said in the order that he strongly encourages people to get vaccinated. But he expressed serious concerns that a requirement for vaccine passports would violate medical privacy rights.

"Vaccine passports create different classes of citizens," he said in announcing the order. "Vaccine passports restrict the free flow of commerce during a time when life and the economy are returning to normal. Vaccine passports threaten individual freedom and patient privacy."

RELATED: All Washingtonians over 16 will be eligible for COVID vaccine starting April 15

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

In New York state, a government-sponsored vaccine passport called the "Excelsior Pass" is being introduced. The smartphone app shows whether people have been vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19.

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

Besides citing concerns about medical privacy rights, Little said COVID-19 vaccine passports could cause prejudice against "those unable to receive the vaccine, slow our economic recovery, cause division among our populace and, ultimately, be counterproductive to the widespread administration of the COVID-19 vaccines among Idahoans."

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

State officials have said that more than 325,000 of Idaho’s 1.8 million residents are fully vaccinated and that 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.

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