“Today I issued an executive order prohibiting the use of so-called Covid-19 vaccine passports,” Desantis said on Twitter. “The legislature is working on making permanent these protections for Floridians and I look forward to signing them into law soon.”
Companies around the world are working to develop such “passports”, secure records of vaccination against Covid-19 that might be used to help society and businesses return to full operation by managing entry to buildings or events. New York state has launched its own version.
But the Florida governor’s order claimed “requiring so-called Covid-19 vaccine passports for taking part in everyday life – such as attending a sporting event, patronizing a restaurant or going to a movie theater – would create two classes of citizens”.
The order says the prohibition is therefore “necessary to protect the fundamental rights and privacies of Floridians and the free flow of commerce within the state”.
It also says “no Florida government entity” or its officials “shall be permitted to issue vaccine passports, vaccine passes, or other standardized documentation for the purpose of certifying an individual’s Covid-19 vaccination status to a third party, or otherwise publish or share and individual’s Covid-19 vaccination record or similar health information.”
Despite the order’s line about protecting the “free flow of commerce”, DeSantis’s order also says business are “prohibited from requiring patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying Covid-19 vaccination or post-transmission recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business”.
Vaccine passports have become the latest flashpoint in increasingly politicized battles over coronavirus policy. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a controversial far-right Georgia Republican, has said vaccine passports are Joe Biden’s “mark of the beast”, the Hill reported. She has also introduced a bill to ban such passports and fire Dr Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser.
In the mainstream of the Republican party, DeSantis has emerged in many eyes as the heir to Donald Trump’s throne, should the former president not run again in 2024.
Many observers and proponents of vaccine passports have pointed out that some countries already require documentation of yellow fever vaccination for entry. Upon getting a yellow fever vaccine, for example, recipients receive a yellow card called the “International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP)”.
The controversy surrounding vaccine passports comes amid a burgeoning fourth wave of Covid-19. While public health officials have repeatedly pleaded with state and local officials to maintain mask mandates and social distancing regulations, states are increasingly loosening restrictions.
Florida has recorded 2.06m cases and nearly 33,500 deaths from Covid-19.