A new mobile being used by Health Departments in states like New Jersey and Utah will allow users to prove they’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine, but the Murphy administration maintains it’s nothing like the controversial “vaccine passport” proposals panned by Republicans.
The smartphone app is called “Docket,” and is available on the Apple and Google Play stores, Gov. Phil Murphy said on July 12.
“To be absolutely clear, this is not a “passport’,” Murphy said during his regular COVID-19 press appearance on July 12. Rather, the app is “intended solely to give residents easy access to their COVID vaccination record, especially if their vaccination card has been damaged or lost.”
And, the governor continued, it would serve as a focal point where a user could pull up their entire state immunization record. Anyone who was vaccinated in the state would be able to use the app, said New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
Murphy and Persichilli did not have information on the cost shelled out by the state for the app, which is being developed by private company Docket Health.
‘[A] pandemic among the unvaccinated’
New COVID-19 cases, fatalities and hospitalizations – especially among the highly contagious Delta variant – are almost exclusively among those who have not gotten the vaccine.
Persichilli said the Delta variant, first detected in India, has taken over the Alpha variant first detected in the United Kingdom as the dominant strain of COVID-19.
“We do not have a pandemic among the vaccinated,” Murphy said during a July 7 regular COVID-19 press briefing. “This is only a pandemic among the unvaccinated.”
State restrictions still require indoor mask usage for anyone who has not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine; over 5.1 million of the state’s 9 million residents have gotten the shot.
But without a proof of vaccine requirement – a passport or some means to verify someone’s vaccination status – public health experts and labor rights groups said that many patrons will not wear the mask and simply lie when asked if they’ve gotten the vaccine. The notion of such a requirement has become politically and culturally polarizing, with GOP-led states like Texas and Florida moving to ban them outright.
Several Republican-led efforts in New Jersey would also ban the use. And Murphy’s Republican opponent for governor – former state Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli from Somerset County – has come out against them.
“There are real issues, including issues of equity,” Murphy said in April, highlighting lack of access to the vaccine among lower-income, typically minority residents.
Although the state does not require the vaccine for many forms of public life, requirements are nonetheless becoming widely required in private businesses and companies.
“We continue to need to make more progress on the equity front,” Murphy added on July 12. “In particular Black and Brown communities, we’re not where we need to be.”
A statewide vaccine mandate – or a vaccine passport – would not be a serious consideration “until everyone has had fair access to the vaccine,” the governor continued.