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VICTOR JOECKS: Take your vaccine passport and shove it

The coronavirus crisis is over, and yet government keeps looking for ways to expand its power. Its next tactic is vaccine passports.

The Biden administration is currently driving an effort to create a national standard for vaccine passports. Americans would use such documents to prove they’ve received the COVID vaccine. If widely adopted, access to activities — such as flights, business meetings or recreational activities — could be restricted only to those who show their vaccine passport.

In early March, the Federal Health IT Coordinating Council held a briefing on the need for a unified federal policy on vaccine passports. “Federal government has a strong interest in how this (the creation of vaccine passports) plays out, and its actions will guide the pace and direction of the market,” a slide from the meeting read.

This is where alarm bells should go off. The federal government has no business requiring you to prove you’ve had a vaccine before engaging in ordinary activities. Even if there’s not a formal mandate, the federal government “guiding” the market to create a de facto requirement is just as problematic.

Consider the philosophical objection first. This fundamentally twists the proper relationship between individuals and government. Our Founding Fathers believed that God gave people “unalienable rights,” which included “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Governments were instituted “to secure these rights.”

Government should serve people, not the other way around. Imposing a requirement that someone obtain a shot to participate in society is a significant limitation on liberty. It would require individuals to jump through government-imposed hoops to participate in normal activities. That doesn’t sound like the policy of a free country.

There’s another phrase in the Declaration of Independence that’s worth remembering. Governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The restrictions imposed by many politicians, including Gov. Steve Sisolak, over the past year have been unilateral and authoritarian. There has been no legislative input. Sisolak and those like him have assumed powers that would have made King George blush. People didn’t consent to vaccine passports, either.

Some might argue that vaccine passports amount to government protecting your right to life. That’s a far cry from the traditional understanding that someone else can’t directly kill you. If you define it that broadly, the government should also ban alcohol, fatty foods, skydiving and even driving. All of those could cause you harm or harm another individual, threatening the right to life.

There are many practical reasons to object to this, too. For one, it’s unnecessary. The vaccines are very effective. By the time a federal vaccine passport rolls out, it’s likely almost everyone who wants a vaccine will have been able to get one. You also undercut the vaccine by implying that vaccinated people need to worry about being around unvaccinated people.

The Federal Health IT Coordinating Council said an ineffective vaccine passport program could slow the country’s economic recovery. It may not have noticed, but the economies of states without draconian restrictions have largely recovered.

There’s concern over privacy as well. A business or government agency shouldn’t have the ability to demand that individuals turn over personal medical information. As some might say, “My body, my choice.”

Finally, there is good reason not to trust federal bureaucrats on the coronavirus. Dr. Anthony Fauci misled the public about wearing masks early in the pandemic. He frequently criticized Donald Trump. He’s been noticeably silent about the Biden administration releasing illegal immigrants into the country without testing them for COVID.

In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared to bend to political pressure from teachers’ unions in issuing school reopening guidelines. For months, the CDC recommended 6 feet of separation between students at school. In March, it reversed course and said 3 feet is sufficient.

For all these reasons, the federal government should shelve its vaccine passport plans.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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