Alabama becomes latest US state to ban vaccine passports, as debate rages over mandating proof of Covid-19 status

Alabama has come out against the use of Covid-19 vaccination certificates to grant certain privileges, following in the footsteps of several other US states that have banned health ‘passports’.

Republican Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill on Monday which prevents states and local governments from issuing documentation verifying vaccine status. The newly ratified law also ensures that people will not be denied entry to businesses, universities, schools and state institutions if they have not been vaccinated against Covid-19. 

In a statement, Ivey said she was supportive of “a voluntary vaccine” and that her decision to sign the bill into law reflects her position on the public health issue. She added that she personally chose to receive the vaccine and encouraged Alabamians who haven’t gotten the shot to “roll up their sleeves.”

The legislation’s sponsor, Republican state Senator Arthur Orr, said he was prompted to take action after hearing stories about businesses that were refusing customers who had not been vaccinated. He said that allowing such policies to continue would lead to discrimination and “turn us into a two-tier society,” according to local media.

Additionally, the law requires universities and colleges to provide a religious or health exemption for any other vaccine that may be listed as required for enrollment. 

Some Democrats in the state legislature were critical of the bill, claiming it was more about scoring political points than forming sound public health policy. 

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The policy of requiring proof of vaccination for certain activities or to gain entry to venues has sparked considerable controversy, both in the United States and abroad. In March, New York became the first state to create a Covid-19 vaccine passport. Dubbed ‘Excelsior Pass’, the digital certificate is not mandatory but has been billed as a way for businesses and establishments to keep their doors open. 

Other states have prohibited such documentation from ever taking root. Iowa adopted a bill earlier this month that prevents local governments and businesses from receiving state money and contracts if they require proof of vaccination from residents. Other states have gone further. Governors Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) and Greg Abbott (R-Texas) have signed executive orders banning vaccine passports in their states. 

Gov. Doug Ducey (R-Arizona) signed an executive order in April prohibiting state and local governments from requiring people to prove their vaccination status to receive services or gain entry to establishments. However, the order does not apply to private businesses, and last week the state legislature shot down a bill that would extend the ban to non-governmental institutions. 

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