Virus Outbreak New Jersey

Nurse Maritza Beniquez (right) receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 15, 2020, at University Hospital, in Newark, New Jersey. Beniquez was the first person in New Jersey to receive the vaccination.

(The Center Square) – Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation they say would ban the use of COVID-19 vaccine passports in New Jersey, which they argue might lead to discrimination based on a person’s vaccination status.

“We’re extremely concerned by Governor [Phil] Murphy’s willingness to consider the use of vaccine passports that could prevent people from working, going to school, or visiting public places,” state Sen. Jim Holzapfel, R-Ocean, said in a statement.

“In a free society that respects individual rights, we believe health decisions should be a personal, private choice that a patient doesn’t have to discuss with anyone but their doctor,” Holzapfel added. “Our new legislation would prevent vaccine passports from being employed here in New Jersey.”

A vaccine passport is a form of credentialing that proves a person is immunized against COVID-19. The bill would make it illegal to require proof of vaccination as a prerequisite to various activities, such as entering an amusement park, renewing a professional certification or license and traveling to, outside of or within New Jersey.

“We don’t think our state government should threaten or allow for personal freedoms to be restricted based on vaccination status,” state Assemblyman Greg McGuckin, R-Toms River, said in a news release. “Requiring vaccine passports to engage in everyday activities would be discriminatory and raise a host of serious constitutional and privacy concerns. This fatally flawed idea needs to be nipped in the bud.”

When asked during a news briefing last week whether vaccine passports are a “dead letter,” Gov. Phil Murphy said he was “open-minded” about a vaccine passport but expressed concerns about the “inequities” it might bring.

“I have talked about government-issued IDs in the context of voting,” Murphy said, according to a transcript. “I think you got to be very careful about this. I’m open-minded. I think you said dead letter; it’s not a dead letter for me, but I think we have to be very careful in terms of how we think about it.

“Now I’m not of the opinion that government, Big Brother getting into your life – that doesn’t bother me,” the governor added. “Government in the right way – and we’ve seen a lot of this over the past year. The right kind of government is exactly what we need in a lot of situations, but I do worry about inequities, etc.”