WASHINGTON POST: Opinion: Peter Franchot: Why I support a vaccine passport for Maryland

Peter Franchot

JAN 24, 2022

Here’s why I support a vaccine passport: Because it’s time for people who follow best practices and science — a vast majority of our state by any measure — to be able to return to their daily lives and routines. As the coronavirus evolves, so must our strategies.

We cannot continue in this climate where the small percentage of the unvaccinated determine the course of life for the overwhelming majority of people who did the right thing and got vaccinated. We must work collaboratively to find the best solutions that ensure the safety of all Marylanders.

There have been numerous, well-intended campaigns to counter misinformation about vaccines. However, the reality is that even though a small minority of Maryland adults remain unvaccinated, these unvaccinated individuals perpetuate unnecessary challenges and have allowed variants such as omicron to develop at faster rates. To date, these actions have directly contributed to the 938,314 confirmed cases and 12,904 deaths our neighbors have suffered. More than 2,000 Marylanders are hospitalized from the effects of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The overwhelming majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated patients.

Vaccine passports not only encourage people to do the right thing, but they also could mitigate even more negative impacts to households and Maryland’s economy. Vaccine passports would require people to provide proof of vaccination before entering public spaces such as restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bowling alleys, museums, concert venues and fitness facilities.

Valid credentials that would be recognized as having “passport status” include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention records, a digital photo of CDC documentation or a certificate from MD MyIR (a mobile vaccination record service).

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s (D) proposal to make this a requirement comes before the County Council for a vote Tuesday. Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott (D) also is considering vaccine passports. D.C. began requiring proof of vaccine starting Jan. 15. The European Union has even instituted a multinational vaccine passport for its member states. Though I commend the initiative and leadership of Elrich and Scott, this virus knows no borders. Our county leaders deserve the support of a truly statewide effort that can ensure a broad range of access and a streamlined means of verification.

I recognize there are valid logistical concerns, such as the lack of staffing for businesses to enforce passports and the impact on families and children who might not have the proper identification to show with their vaccination passport. As a consistent advocate for keeping Maryland businesses open and safe, I believe this is when it is up to the state to step in to support our businesses and protect our communities, whether by providing subsidies that aid in implementation or allowing businesses to opt-in so that customers can choose to patronize establishments that provide them a comfortable and safe environment. It is critical for our leadership to push to the front and meet the occasion to secure a safer, thriving and equitable future. I am confident we can do so.

After nearly two years of combating the coronavirus, we have learned a lot about how to address the public health challenges it creates. From instituting social distancing and mask mandates in public spaces to the renewed importance of readily available testing and vaccines, we also have learned that vaccines and boosters continue to be the most effective strategy to combating the coronavirus and reducing hospitalizations and deaths.

Yet, despite this knowledge, we continue to grapple with persistent infections and deaths exacerbated by individuals who remain unvaccinated and willfully flout public health best practices. More work must be done to ensure Maryland implements an effective statewide strategy so that we can finally move beyond the ongoing impact of this pandemic.