(TNS) - Apr. 6—Gov. Greg Abbot issued an executive order early Tuesday banning state agencies from requiring "vaccine passports" to enter public spaces or receive public services.
The passports, either digital or printed, would verify that a person has been fully immunized against COVID-19 and allow people to more freely travel and shop.
So far, they only exist in a limited capacity in New York. Still, the passports have emerged as the latest subject of political clashes over the virus, with GOP politicians decrying the passes as an infringement on individual rights.
"Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives," Abbott said in a news release. "We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health — and we will do so without treading on Texans' personal freedoms."
The executive order applies to all public agencies, and any public or private organization that receive state funds. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are exempt and can still require visitors to show proof of vaccination.
In New York, the 'Excelsior Pass' is an app where residents can upload their proof of vaccination or recent COVID-19 negative test result. The app then produces a barcode that can be scanned at businesses and other venues.
"Think of it as a mobile airline boarding pass, but for proving you received a COVID-19 vaccination or negative test," the state's website advertises.
Abbott's action follows that of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last week also issued an executive order barring the practice. He said the passes would "reduce individual freedom and ... harm patient privacy."
Several GOP lawmakers in other states, like Arkansas and Pennsylvania, have also said they're drafting legislation to address the subject.
Proponents, meanwhile, have said the passes could further slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that crowded events do not become super-spreaders. Some have pointed out that proof of vaccination is already required to travel to several countries.
President Joe Biden's administration has not yet taken a stance on the passports. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert, said the federal government wouldn't lead such a charge.
"I doubt that the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept," Fauci told the Politico Dispatch podcast this week.
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