NJ GOP lawmakers propose ban on any COVID vaccine ‘passport’ use
TRENTON — With more than 2.5 million people already fully vaccinated against COVID-19 statewide, there's been increased attention on whether businesses, workplaces or schools should be able to require proof of whether people have gotten such shots.
Three republican state lawmakers in Ocean County have proposed a ban on so-called vaccine passports — paper or electronic documents or credentials on a person's immunization status, in particular amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sen. Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano, all of the 10th Legislative District, planned to introduce legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against or to take any adverse action against anyone who either has not received a COVID-19 vaccine or who doesn't want to say whether or not they have gotten it.
“We don’t think our state government should threaten or allow for personal freedoms to be restricted based on vaccination status,” McGuckin said in a written joint statement, which also said the issue was steeped in serious constitutional and privacy concerns.
The proposed ban would prevent any employer, whether public or private, from asking for vaccination proof, as well as by schools at any age level — from daycare and preschool programs through high school and colleges.
It would also override policies set at businesses including but not limited to entertainment venues, restaurants, amusements parks, retail stores and sports arenas.
Rutgers University was the first school in state to announce that on-campus students would be required to get vaccinated before the upcoming fall semester. Yale University, Brown University, and the University of Notre Dame also have announced similar policies.
There's relatively murky legal precedent for employers being able to require workers to be vaccinated, and a legal case involving state mandates for vaccines dates back to the early 1900s when smallpox was the pressing public health emergency.
In November, before the new vaccines were administered, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn had said that the agency would only consider an EUA if it felt the risks associated with the vaccine were “much lower than the risks of not having a vaccine and the potential benefit of having a vaccine,” as cited by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
It's the first such wide-scale use of the emergency use option, which was created by the FDA around 2004, as the country dealt with potential bio-terror threats.
Before considering any COVID-19 vaccines, federal officials brought the three-phase standards more into line with licensing regulations, including two months of follow-up after patients’ second vaccination prior to EUA approval.