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Exclusive: Bill bans federal funding for vaccine passports

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Allouz) would bar state and local governments from using federal tax dollars to develop and implement COVID-19 vaccine passport systems.

The “No Vox Pass Act of 2021” isn’t a full ban on such travel restrictions, but it does hit where it hurts governments contemplating vaccine passports.

“Vaccine passports are a terrible idea that raise significant privacy concerns and make no sense given current rates of vaccination, natural immunity, and infections,” Gallagher said. “At a minimum, Congress should ensure that federal dollars don’t go to developing systems that will limit Americans’ ability to live their lives and provide for their families.”

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have plummeted in recent months in Wisconsin and the U.S., as the nation moves closer to fully reopening. That fact has much to do with the growing number of vaccinated Americans.

But proof of vaccine, which many see as an attack civil liberties, is part of the path back to normal for some state and local governments.

New York, Hawaii, and Oregon require proof of vaccination. Those who can are exempt from COVID-19 restrictions.

As of last week, 15 states legislatures, including Iowa, had banned proof-of-vaccination requirements, according to Ballotpedia.  In another 10 states, governors have banned vaccine passports through executive order. The Wisconsin Legislature has yet to take up a bill that prohibits proof of vaccination. Bills that would prohibit vaccine passports as well as bar employers from requiring employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 cleared legislative hurdles earlier this month.

“Requiring a vaccine is not the same as requiring an employee to wear steel toe boots or a hair net. You can take those off when you leave,” testified Judith Jolly, a registered nurse from Pardeeville with the group Vaccine Choice Wisconsin. “You can’t take the vaccine out of your body when you leave work.”

Gov. Tony Evers in April vetoed a bill that would have prevented the government from requiring individuals to get COVID shots.

Gallagher’s bill does not prevent state and local education agencies, including K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, from using federal COVID-19 relief funds for developing coronavirus vaccine verification systems so long as they do not impose conditions stricter than the requirements for other school-related vaccines.

“This bill takes important steps to keep tax-payer dollars away from funding unnecessary government interference,” Gallagher said.

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