REPUBLICAN governor does about-face, says he’s working with ’15 – 20’ states on QR code vax passports

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Gov. Charlie Baker has announced that Massachusetts is working on a state-sanctioned COVID-19 vaccination passport program that uses a scannable quick response code, known as a QR code.

For the record, Baker is a Republican, although the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also gave us Mitt Romney, the supposed GOP senator now representing Utah.

The governor said during an appearance on GBH News’ “Boston Public Radio” that there are a number of states working together to establish an easy process for a person to verify their COVID-19 vaccination status, WGBH reported.

“Here’s my QR code,” Baker said, showing the show hosts. “That’s my proof that I’ve been vaccinated. It’s easy to access.”

“It’s a universal standard and we’ve been working with a bunch of other states — there’s probably 15 or 20 of them — to try to create a single QR code that can be used for all sorts of things where people may choose to require a vaccine,” he continued.

Baker said his state is providing around 55,000 total vaccination shots per day, including boosters, and has administered around 1 million booster shots, according to the public radio station. He also spoke of increased capacity in the days ahead.

“Now, they may not be in the place somebody wants to go to get one,” he said. “And it may be a week or 10 days out or two weeks out before they can get one. But given the fact that we have far more demand now that we had a couple of weeks ago, we’re going to see if we can increase our capacity to do more.”

The Boston Herald reported that Baker’s current stance on vaccine passports was his “latest about-face,” noting that in April he said there would be no vaccine verification system in the state.

“I think having a conversation about creating a barrier before people have even had an opportunity to be eligible to be vaccinated — let’s focus on getting people vaccinated,” he was quoted as saying at the time.

The paper noted that it’s “still unclear when the digital vaccine passports will come to Massachusetts and what exactly it will look like,” although recently elected Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has suggested that proof of vaccination passports could be required to enter business venues.

Baker press secretary Terry MacCormack said in a statement that the administration “has no plans for a statewide vaccine requirement.”

“The Baker-Polito Administration has been exploring a voluntary vaccine credential system to help residents more easily access their vaccine records and has been in touch with other states to learn more about their similar efforts,” MacCormack said, according to the Herald.

At the same time, the Herald reported that Democratic lawmakers have pressed Baker to institute a vaccine passport, with one of those lawmakers, Sen. Barry Finegold, saying that it’s the best way to “standardize” and avoid confusion as communities begin to get back to more normal activities.

“You go to different states and cities and different places have different rules,” Finegold said. “It would be so much easier if we had a vaccine passport we could flash and be done with it.”

While Baker has yet to say whether he’ll run for a third term, implementing a vaccine passport could hurt his reelection chances if he does run — he faces a primary challenge from former state Rep. Geoff Diehl, who has already been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

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