A public health professor at George Washington University strongly suggested to CNN’s Chris Cuomo last month that the Biden administration should consider sanctioning Americans who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Specifically, Dr. Leana Wen, a former president of Planned Parenthood, said that the administration should “make it clear” to Americans “that the vaccine is the ticket back to pre-pandemic life.”
“The window to do that is really narrowing,” she said, appearing to lament the fact that several states “are reopening at 100 percent,” meaning they no longer require masks, social distancing, or limits on business occupancy.
“We have a very narrow window to tie reopening policy to vaccination status because otherwise, if everything is reopened, then what’s the carrot going to be? How are we going to incentivize people to actually get the vaccine?” Wen continued.
“So that’s why I think the CDC and the Biden administration needs to come out a lot bolder and say, ‘If you’re vaccinated, you can do all these things, here are all these freedoms that you have.’ Because otherwise, people are going to go out and enjoy these freedoms anyway,” she added.
Cuomo, who is a lawyer, never questioned Wen on the constitutionality of her recommendation.
Wen’s statements come amid increasing discussions within the corporate world and the administration about requiring Americans to have a “COVID passport” in order to fully participate in society.
Earlier this week, CNN reported that, according to one administration official, the White House is “working on creating a set of standards for people to prove they’ve been vaccinated against” the virus.
The official went on to say that the administration is working with an array of companies on developing the standards, to include non-profits and big tech, though “they are likely still weeks away from being finalized,” CNN added, quoting the unnamed official.
The report cited a separate senior official who said that several federal agencies “are engaged in conversation and planning,” all of which is being coordinated by the White House, “as this kind of system will play a role in multiple aspects of life, including potentially the workforce.”
That said, White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted Monday that there won’t be a federal mandate requiring all Americans to have proof they’ve been vaccinated and there isn’t any plan to develop a national vaccine database.
But if the corporate world, airlines, and businesses will require their workers to obtain one or for people to show proof of a vaccine before being allowed to fly or enter, then a federal mandate won’t be necessary.
President Joe Biden himself has discussed the concept in recent days, predicting that the country could be back to normal by Christmas as more Americans are vaccinated. Vaccine passports, he added, could be a key element to a return to normalcy, CNN reported.
Some states are already pushing back, however.
Earlier this month as the concept began to circulate, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was adamant that there would be no such passport mandate in his state.
“I just want to make very clear in Florida, we are not doing any vaccine passports. All those experts said that it was a bad idea. I think it’s a bad idea and so that will not happen,” DeSantis said. “And so folks should get vaccinated, if they want to, we’ll obviously provide that, but under no circumstances will the state be asking you to show proof of vaccination, and I don’t think private companies should be doing that either.”
“To start going down the road of vaccine passports, I mean, you have some of these states saying to go to a sporting event, you have to show either a negative test or a vaccine proof. I think you just got to make decisions. If you want to go to an event, go to an event. If you don’t, don’t,” he continued.
“But to be requiring people to provide all this proof, that’s not how you get society back to normal so we’re rejecting any vaccine passports here in the state of Florida.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, also a Republican, has also said no to vaccine passports.
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