UVA professor weighs in on legality of COVID-19 vaccine passports

UVA School of Law
UVA School of Law(WVIR | W)
Updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 5:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A COVID-19 passport may be the key to returning to normalcy, and insight from a University of Virginia law professor says that’s definitely within the realm of possibility.

“People might have an argument as lockdowns continue that people who are fully vaccinated should be free from some of these restrictions,” UVA Law Associate Professor Kevin Cope said.

Cope says there’s precedent for vaccine passports: “There’s a Supreme Court case from 1905 that says that under some circumstances, states can actually force people to get vaccinated, so long as the vaccine is safe,” he said.

Cope believes a passport program may encourage more people to get the shot.

“It would be more effective to have a vaccine passport program, which would incentivize more people to get vaccine. Sort of as a carrot, as opposed to the stick to give them the chance to restore their liberties,” he said.

Cope says this isn’t much different than having to show proof of other vaccinations for certain things.

“People who want to enroll their children in school or daycare are required to show a vaccination against a variety of diseases,” he said. “To travel abroad you need to show a vaccination for certain diseases. So it’s certainly not unprecedented.”

This type of COVID-19 passport could be carried around digitally.

“What’s new, perhaps, is the notion of an electronic smartphone app that you’ll carry around and, understandably, that makes people a little bit leery about privacy and so forth, but I think that’s something that corporations that are developing these apps and governments are trying to figure out,” Cope said.

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