By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed legislation banning so-called vaccine passports as Alabama becomes the latest state to try to prohibit proof of a coronavirus vaccination to enter a business, school or event.
The legislation by Republican Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur would prohibit government entities from issuing “vaccine or immunization passports” or other “standardized documentation for the purpose of certifying immunization status.” The bill makes exemptions for child immunization forms and “other applicable state law.”
The new act would also prevent people from being denied entry to businesses, universities, and state agencies if they have not been vaccinated for COVID-19. However, the legislation does not specify any penalty for violations.
The Alabama House of Representatives last week voted 76-16 for the bill after stripping language that would have exempted health offices and nursing homes and adding language saying universities cannot require students to have vaccines developed after Jan. 1, 2021. The Senate approved the bill earlier in the session by a 30-0 vote.
“I am supportive of a voluntary vaccine and by signing this bill into law, I am only further solidifying that conviction,” Ivey said in a statement released by her office.
“I made the choice to get the COVID-19 vaccine and glad for the peace of mind it brings. I encourage any Alabamian who has not gotten their shot to roll up their sleeves, and if you have questions, consult with your health care provider,” she said.
Orr said the aim of the bill is “to prevent the creation of a discriminatory society based on vaccination status.” Orr said there are exemptions in the bill as to not interfere with school immunization cards and other vaccinations forms.
A spokesman for the Alabama Department of Public Health said the new act does not appear to prohibit the issuance of vaccination cards — such as those currently issued for COVID-19 vaccinations — by the state as well as other vaccine providers.
“Personal vaccination records provided by ADPH are not to serve as a passport to serve as a means of entry into any establishment or place of business,” Ryan Easterling, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Public Health wrote in an email.
Republicans in several states have backed bans on so-called vaccine passports even though they are not in widespread use in the U.S. Some Alabama House Democrats last week criticized the broad wording of the bill and said it was about politics rather than public health decisions.
“When does it become your right to pass on your illness on to someone else?” Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, said.
Rep. Merika Coleman, D-Pleasant Grove, said that Republicans are choosing to dictate to businesses what they can and can’t do.
The idea of so-called vaccine passports is to have a document that shows you were vaccinated against COVID-19. Federal officials say there are no plans to make them broadly mandatory, but some Republican governors have issued orders barring businesses or state agencies from asking people to show proof of vaccination.
Hawaii has a limited vaccine passport program for inter-island travel that allows people who received their vaccine shots to skip testing and quarantine rules for travel between the islands. New York officials have launched a digital app New Yorkers can download to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.