Triangle residents weigh benefits and risks of a COVID vaccine passport

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Some see it as the symbol of safety in a post-pandemic world. But the idea of a vaccine passport is more ominous for others who think see it as overreach with big privacy concerns.

"I don't personally mind it. I'd like to know that the people around me are vaccinated. I think that's fine. I'd feel safer," said Raleigh resident Trevor Edge.

"I get it for like traveling: domestic or international. But for restaurants and things like that -- it sounds a little eerie," added Raleigh resident Jerry Harvey.

Companies are hard at work right now building the tech for so-called vaccine passports. Users would submit their vaccine records for verification and get a digital record to carry as proof of full vaccination. Airlines could use it as requirement for travel; maybe cruise lines; or to get into a large sporting event; business owners could require the passports at movie theaters or restaurants.

"I understand why they're doing it. But I don't agree with it," said Emma Wierzgat of Raleigh.

Ashley Case of Raleigh found it an acceptable sign of the times. "In the past year we've dealt with things we've never dealt with. So, there's not a ton that's super out of reach," she said.

Vaccine passports were a hot topic at this week's health and equity webinar at Duke University. Experts first spelled out the obvious benefits of people knowing the large group they're with is vaccinated, too.

"That that would give them a greater sense of security; it might lead to people being more willing to participate in these activities they've been hesitant to do. And that could be a big boost to the economy," said Nita Farhany, director of Duke Science and Society.

But, Farahany also warned of the risks. A false sense of security: The jury is still out on whether vaccinated people can still spread COVID-19 to the unvaccinated. And, concerns over equity: Marginalized communities, already hard-hit by COVID, could be potentially shut out of society.

"If we condition participation in society based on access to a vaccine passport... then what you'll see is a widening gap: jobs that were lost in the pandemic will go to the people who were able to gain earlier access to the vaccine," Farahany said.

There's also uneasiness over expanding the number of people who have access to our private health information. But it's important to point out that the federal government says it will not require Americans to carry vaccine passports. There was a similar sentiment expressed this week from state health officials.

Time will tell if private companies decide if vaccine passports are a good or bad bet for business.
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