Gov. Phil Murphy defended his earlier stance on a so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passport” that could be used in New Jersey coming out of the existing pandemic and as an integral part of the COVID-19 reopenings.
“Do I think it’s a crazy idea? No,” the governor said during a Monday, March 22 morning interview with CNN.
He suggested during a CNBC interview on Friday, March 19 that fully vaccinated New Jerseyans hold onto their cards showing they got the COVID-19 vaccine, as they may be useful in the near future.
“Don’t get rid of the card, that’s likely to be something valuable… Laminate it and put it in your wallet,” the governor said. “There are lots of different potential uses for that, whether it’s going to a sporting event, getting on a plane.”
But he assured in both interviews that he would ultimately follow the guidance of the federal Center for Disease Control.
Murphy, at a COVID-19 press briefing later that day, indicated that while he was open to the idea, he was still not “pounding the table” for such a concept.
The vaccines are a vital component of permanently rolling back restrictions on businesses, travel and public gatherings, which have been in place this past year to keep the spread of the virus at bay.
But state and federal governments have flubbed their efforts and mass inoculations are sluggish at best. Murphy has assured the state will have a surge of vaccine supply around Easter, which is on April 4.
Tech companies and the airline industry – which has been pummeled by the pandemic in the past year – are pushing for such a “passport.” Israel has already instituted a “Green Pass” needed to ensure access to public events such as concerts and sporting events, hotels, gyms, and restaurants.
But the idea has met resistance from public health experts worried that lower-income, typically minority populations already struggling to get vaccinated could be left behind by such a mandate.
“It’s not the role of the government to hold that data and to do that,” said Andy Slavitt, a senior White House advisor on COVID-19, said a week ago on March 15.
“But we do believe that when that gets done, there is a right way and a way that’s not as good… And the right way is: It needs to be private; the data should be secure; the access to it should be free; it should be available both digitally and in paper, and in multiple languages, and it should be open source.”
Republicans too have opposed the idea, and in a March 19 statement, the Republican Governor’s Association attacked Murphy over his support of a vaccine passport.
“Governor Phil Murphy’s suggestion that Garden Staters could be required to show proof of vaccine is a health privacy minefield,” reads a statement from RGA spokesperson Will Reinert.
“Hard-working New Jersey residents have the right to keep their health care decisions between themselves and their doctor, and don’t need Phil Murphy in the waiting room telling patients to make sure they ‘laminate’ their vaccine card on the way out.”