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Vaccine passports should not usher the way to even more social stratification

Travelers walk through the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City on March 17.Rick Bowmer

As the pandemic drags on, key community institutions, such as stadiums, theaters, and museums, are struggling with how they can provide a safe way to reopen. One of the most obvious would be a reliable means to determine who has been vaccinated or has tested negative for COVID-19 before they could enter these spaces.

Andy Slavitt, a White House COVID-19 adviser, recently stated that the US government “is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of citizens.” Enter various tech firms, such as IBM, Clear, and others, that are developing apps to address this need (“Been vaccinated? Prepare to prove it,” Business, March 11).


While I would love to just show my phone and return to my beloved movie theater, I urge policy makers not to allow private industry to act as the gatekeeper for who can access these public places. Although many of these apps would be free for users, we have seen countless examples where “free for users” means monopoly for the company involved or becomes free with paid upgrades.

Airport security lines are already a panoply of priorities, loyalty promotion, and paid upgrades. Imagine after the pandemic seeing the same social hierarchy at the Museum of Fine Arts or TD Garden.

Validating vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests is vital to keeping our community safe and should be implemented in a manner that is free, equitable, and temporary. It should not be the wedge for another subscription platform to continue our social stratification.

Luke Shulman