ILLINOIS — An overwhelming majority of Illinois Patch readers who responded to our survey are against the idea of a statewide vaccine passport — a kind of digital credential that would show a person’s vaccination status or recent negative COVID-19 test result as a way for them to possibly attend sporting events or enter businesses.

As more and more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, the idea of a vaccine passport has been in the public discourse, and states are taking steps to either explore the idea or reject it altogether.

Patch received nearly 5,000 responses to our survey, with more than 62 percent of respondents saying they opposed the idea of a vaccine passport. More than 79 percent of those respondents said they had data privacy concerns around the use of such a credential. When asked about the specific types of concerns they had, readers said they should be able to keep medical information private.

The survey was not a scientific poll, with random sampling and weighting by race, education or other factors, and should be viewed only as a broad gauge of public sentiment.

Many readers cited the medical privacy law HIPAA and claimed it would be violation of the law to require a vaccine passport. However, a fact check of this claim makes it clear that is not the case. The law’s privacy rule only applies to entities like hospitals and doctors’ offices, and prevents them from sharing medical information with third parties, as The Washington Post explained.

“HIPAA doesn’t apply if nobody involved is part of the medical system; it’s not technically a medical record,” Carmel Shachar, a Harvard Law lecturer, told Slate in December.

A fact-check by Atlanta-based news outlet 11Alive also found that an individual voluntarily sharing medical information is consenting to let that information be shared.

That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate privacy concerns around the use of a vaccine passport, as digital data breaches are now common.

The nearly 38 percent of respondents who said they supported a vaccine passport shared some of the settings where they felt such a passport could be used. Below is a sampling of the locations:

  • Air travel
  • Large events
  • Indoor events
  • Sports
  • Restaurants
  • Concerts
  • “Some types of employment, like bus drivers, retail clerks, jobs with a lot of public exposure
  • Any event or gathering of more than 5 people, outside of family,” a reader said.
  • “Every public situation where people will be going maskless,” said another.
  • “I think most places really,” another reader said. “In any public setting anyone unvaccinated is a risk to everyone, especially to children as they can’t be vaccinated yet.”

The vast majority — more than 88 percent — of respondents in favor of the passport also said they did not have data privacy concerns around the use of such a passport.

“I strongly favor (vaccine passports), people lie about everything,” one reader said. “I don’t trust those who refuse to get vaccine, to abide by the guidelines set for by CDC.”

“For the safety of me and my family, I think they are a necessary evil,” another reader wrote. “However, I believe that there will be significant backlash against mandatory passports.”

One reader said, “You have the right not to get the vaccine, but I also think public event coordinators and businesses have the right to require proof of vaccination before allowing people in. Public safety is important. If we really want to ‘get back to normal’ then I think a vaccine passport is the quickest and easiest way to do that.”

Most readers (96 percent) who were opposed to the idea of a vaccine passport said they did not believe residents should have to show proof of vaccination. When it came to letting private businesses and employers put their own policies in place, a smaller yet still overwhelming majority (more than 75 percent) of these readers, said they were opposed to it.

Those opposed to the passports were also largely against health screenings like temperature checks at restaurants and movie theaters (75 percent), COVID-19 vaccine requirements for domestic or international air travel (89 percent) and a majority (more than 76 percent) said they would not feel safer attending an event or eating at a restaurant knowing others around them had been vaccinated for COVID-19.

“Being vaccinated should be up to the individual. This is all about government control,” one reader wrote.

“Vaccinations should be a personal choice,” another person wrote. “If we trust the efficacy of the vaccine and chose to be vaccinated, there is no reason to require others to be vaccinated.”

“I’ve been vaccinated by choice. I think that it should continue to be by choice,” a reader said. “If I need to show proof to do things and be maskless, then I will. However, I don’t think we should need a passport when you don’t require ID to VOTE.”

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