In-Depth: Could 'green passports' for COVID immunity come to San Diego?

Experts discuss idea of vaccine passports
Posted at 6:50 AM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-18 21:41:09-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Leaders across several sectors in San Diego have mixed emotions regarding the idea of a "green passport."

The concept comes from Israel and other countries, which require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry into crowded businesses or international travel.

"I think it's great," County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher said during his news conference last Thursday. "I think it can be a great utility and value in helping facilitate some safe interactions with folks. But, also, I think a program like that might help encourage some folks to get vaccinated who otherwise might not want to go through what they perceive as a hassle."

Israel's government requires the "Green Pass" to get into gyms, swimming pools, hotels, restaurants, stadiums, theaters, and more.

Leaders in the European Union proposed a green passport to make travel between member countries easier.

There are no similar proposals in place in the US right now. Still, local business leaders say it could help the economy recover faster.

"I think it's something that really needs to be considered," says Michael Trimble, the Gaslamp Quarter Association Executive Director. "At this point, we don't have any rules or protocols for things like special events or events in general. If there was a way to identify individuals who have been vaccinated, I think that we could find a way to open up more of those avenues, whether it be outdoor events or concerts or things of that nature, which still are on lockdown."

But skeptics point out that the US could never reach a consensus on issues like mask-wearing or business shutdowns during the pandemic. They feel it would be just as unlikely to see a green passport imposed on a federal level.

"We have a very different culture here," says Dr. Corinne McDaniels-Davidson from San Diego State's Institute of Public Health. "We have a culture that is focused on individualism. And I think that kind of blanket policy might not fly here like it can fly in some of the more collectivist countries."

Other people point to some of the legal and ethical concerns that a vaccination requirement would bring, especially while there are still equity issues regarding who has access to the vaccine.

"It's really quite complicated," says Dr. Lucy Horton from UC San Diego Health. "Upfront, the concept seems simple, but it's really more complex. I think there are probably some scenarios, especially for large group settings, where this might be valid. But, in the current state of politics in the US, I'm not that optimistic that this will be widely passed."

The WHO says they do not recommend proof of vaccination for international travel but could revisit the idea as more people have access to a vaccine.

In the meantime, they suggest people who want to gather or travel follow the local health guidelines and get their vaccine as soon as they're eligible.