Sen. Scott Introduces Bill to Ban 'Vaccine Passports' for Domestic Flights

Sen. Scott Introduces Bill to Ban 'Vaccine Passports' for Domestic Flights
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks to the media before the weekly Senate Republican lunch on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Nov. 10, 2020. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Janita Kan

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced a bill on Wednesday that would ban the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from asking passengers traveling on domestic flights to show proof of vaccination.

The bill, known as the Freedom to Fly Act, would prevent the regulator from implementing any policies that allow TSA staff to ask domestic passengers for information relating to their vaccination status.

“Americans are working hard to recover from the devastation of COVID-19 and travel is critical to getting our economy fully re-opened. While I continue to encourage everyone who wants one to get the vaccine, the federal government has no business requiring travelers to turn over their personal medical information to catch a flight. My Freedom to Fly Act ensures families in Florida and across the country can travel freely and without the ridiculous government bureaucracy created by vaccine passports," Scott said in a statement.

The White House has insisted the federal government won’t implement or support a so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passport” system. But in late May, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the federal government was assessing the possibility of requiring vaccine passports for international travel.

The concept of "vaccine passports" has been criticized by civil rights groups and Republicans as a potential invasion of privacy. But Mayorkas said proof of vaccination seeks to encourage Americans to obtain the COVID-19 jab.

The debate on whether a vaccine passport should be required prior to travel comes against a backdrop of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) easing guidance that had required vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors or outdoors under most circumstances. States have also eased other restrictions that were put in place to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. According to the CDC, so far, about 52 percent of the adult population has received their full dose of the vaccine.
Several Republican-led states have introduced similar measures to ban "vaccine passports" from being used. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) became the first governor to issue an executive order that barred the usage of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus “vaccine passports."
At the time, DeSantis expressed concerns that “vaccination records are private health information," adding that if a passport is needed to take part in everyday life, such as a sporting event, then such policies would "create two classes of citizens."

States including Iowa, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Wyoming have followed suit with similar measures banning "vaccine passports" in certain settings, such as banning the need to show proof of vaccination as a condition to enter an area or to receive a government service, permit, or licence.

Scott's bill follows a similar effort by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who introduced the “No Vaccine Passports Act," the “prohibit any federal vaccine passport” system, and is seeking to bar the White House from “doing anything to mandate vaccines.”
“We’re seeing some places where employers are saying ‘If you’re not vaccinated, you’re fired,’ and that ought to be illegal. Your health decisions are yours to make, and it shouldn’t be your boss. It shouldn’t be the government. It shouldn’t be anyone else forcing you to make those decisions,” Cruz told Fox News in an interview.

Some states such as Oregon have implemented measures that require individuals to show proof of vaccination or wear a mask to enter workplaces, religious sites, and businesses.

Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
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