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Questions to Consider if Your Organization is Evaluating the Use of Vaccine Passports

March 18, 2021

By Michael Burns, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Vaccine passports, documentation that an individual received a vaccination and is presumably better protected against a virus or has recently been tested and found negative, are being debated and considered by many before allowing employees to return to work. Having one’s shots to travel internationally is not new. But expanding the use of a vaccine passport for entry into concert venues, sport events, or using that passport to come to work is new.

For decades travel to certain countries require proof of vaccination against yellow fever, rubella, and other diseases via a “yellow card.” Formally, this card is known as the International Certificate of Vaccination. Currently, one form of vaccine “passport” for COVID-19 is a paper certificate of vaccination provided by the Centers for Disease Control if you can get it.

Some state departments of health may provide a COVID-19 document. Colorado is one. But even where available, they are not easy to get. In the State of Michigan, a person getting vaccinated receives a vaccination card. Would this suffice as a “vaccination passport” for employers?

Employers that may consider using a vaccine passport should keep in mind some important concerns about privacy, liability, and corporate culture.

There will be different forms of COVID-19 vaccination passports. Which one or ones may be acceptable for your organization and can they be verified? Some are very easy to counterfeit.

In what form will an acceptable passport be kept? An app, QR code or a physical piece of paper?

What accommodations for religion, disability, or other grounds may be implemented? Uneven vaccine distribution and inoculation may result in disparate impact and concerns about discrimination.

What liability risks will ensue if a passport program sets up a false sense of security that results in unanticipated illness? Workers” compensation only covers, well, workers. What about outside customers and visitors to the worksite?

As we enter the inoculation stage of the pandemic, HR professionals and private employers will need to tread carefully as opening programs, plans, or options come up. Whether COVID-19 passports are used and what form they will take to be considered legitimate will be one more consideration for employers to look at.

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