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Ohio Lawmaker Proposes Premptive Ban On 'Vaccine Passports'

Crown Pointe Care Center resident Rebecca Meeker, left, receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Kate Latta, PharmD, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. Meeker was the first long-term care patient in Ohio to receive a vaccine.
Jay LaPrete
/
Associated Press
Crown Pointe Care Center resident Rebecca Meeker, left, receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Kate Latta, PharmD, Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio. Meeker was the first long-term care patient in Ohio to receive a vaccine.

A Republican state lawmaker has proposed a bill to ban Ohio from mandating so-called “vaccine passports” that would that provide proof of a COVID vaccination, even though there are no plans to institute them.

State Rep. Al Cutrona (R-Canfield) says he's fine with a private business requiring a vaccine passport through an app or other digital technology. But he said the state mandating one would be akin to health orders issued throughout the pandemic, which he thinks restrict Ohioans’ freedoms.

“This is not normal and this is abnormal," Cutrona said. "So basically what this bill does is, it reins in the government. It reins in and prevents any type of health orders that would require this."

Cutrona is the CEO of an infectious disease practice and says vaccines are effective, although he won’t say if he’s gotten the shot himself. But Cutrona said he’s concerned private health information could be accessed and sold with a digital vaccine passport.

"It's a scary piece of technology, which takes people's private information and then links it with the government side. And then it places it on a platform for big tech companies who are then using this data and they're going to use it and sell it off," Cutrona said.

The state and the federal government have both said there are no plans to develop or mandate vaccine passports. But the White House has said the private sector could develop and use them.

It's not unusual for international travelers to have to present vaccine cards as proof of needed shots. While the Biden administration said it won't create or require a digital vaccine passport, the president signed an executive order in January on linking COVID vaccinations to vaccine cards, including digital versions.

The issue of vaccine passports came up in the debate over Senate Bill 22, the bill that will allow state lawmakers to overturn Gov. Mike DeWine's health orders and would ban county boards of health from issuing similar orders. It's set to take effect in June, after lawmakers overrode DeWine's veto.

During that discussion, state Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wayne County) said someone had emailed him an article about vaccine passports, which he has referred to as "dangerous" and "morally repugnant."

Cutrona, who voted in favor of SB22, said it "was to rein in the government to to to give the power to the people."