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Health, Science & Tech

Vaccine Passport Bill Takes First Step In Pennsylvania

Virus Outbreak vaccine passport covid-19 coronavirus
AP
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NY Governor's Press Office
FILE - In this undated photo, provided by NY Governor's Press Office on Saturday March 27, 2021, is the new "Excelsior Pass" app, a digital pass that people can download to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine have become the latest flash point in America’s perpetual political wars, with Republicans portraying them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices.

Republicans in Pennsylvania's state Senate began advancing legislation Monday to prohibit governments and school districts from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination for any sort of access.

The Republican-penned bill passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee along party lines, 6-4, with Democrats opposing it.

The prohibition on so-called vaccine passports applies to state agencies, counties, municipalities and school districts, and bars them from requiring a proof of vaccination to use services, enter buildings or engage in activities.

The bill does not apply to private businesses or organizations.

The sponsors — Sens. Kristin Phillips-Hill or York County, Michele Brooks of Mercer County and Judy Ward of Blair County — contend that requiring a vaccine passport is a government intrusion into private medical information.

They also say it discriminates against Pennsylvanians who don't get a COVID-19 vaccine by choice or due to medical reasons.

Sen. Art Haywood, D-Montgomery, said school districts already require vaccines, such as for measles mumps and rubella, and may need the authority to require a COVID-19 vaccine for community safety in a state where the virus has killed more than 27,000 people, according to state data.

Much more analysis needs to be done to determine whether school districts should have the authority to require COVID-19 vaccination, Haywood said.

Some Republican-controlled states have pursued similar prohibitions.