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Reasonable compromise can be reached on vaccine passports

A week ago, The Sentinel took a stand against so-called vaccine passports. While that is the official opinion of the newspaper — my employer — it is not one that I share.

Here’s why.

First, we know that private companies — airlines, cruise ships, sports stadiums and the like — have not only a right but an obligation to protect those who wish to use these services. One way to do that is to require proof of vaccination.

This is not a new idea. Vaccines have long been required for various forms of international travel. A vaccine card used to be part of regular passports for just this reason.

The U.S. is among those countries that require vaccination of immigrants — 15 of them at last count, not including COVID-19. This, by the way, is one of the reasons the porous southern border poses such a risk — illegal immigrants aren’t checked for health on the way in.

Days after we joined Kerry Benninghoff (R-Bellefonte), the Majority Leader of the state legislature, in opposing such passports, we learned that the CDC vaccination cards you receive when you are vaccinated against COVID are being pirated and sold fraudulently to those who want to appear innoculated but are not. What would fix that? Oh, yes, a state- or federally-issued secure card.

Yes, folks still produce fake driver’s licenses. But that’s a lot harder now than the days of paper permits.

There are a number of reasons people have given not to be vaccinated. Very few of them should be taken seriously.

My favorite, of course, is the preposterous belief that a microchip has been added to the vaccine by Microsoft found Bill Gates so you can be tracked by the government. Aside from the fact that this defies sense and logic is the whole “I don’t want to be tracked” position. If you insist on a life free of tracking, you must:

¯ Stop using store loyalty cards. When you show that card, the retailer is keeping a database of what you bought, when and where.

¯ Get off the Internet. Forever. Every time you click, you are tracked. Every time.

¯ Stop watching TV. Unless you are watching nothing but true over-the-air programming using an antenna, you’re being followed.

¯ Get rid of your car. Chances are, you have a number of tracking devices there, some of which you’ve put in voluntarily (like that thing that saves you on car insurance).

¯ And the big one — your cell phone. That’s just one big spy device that you use to tell the world all your secrets.

Then there are the folks who so distrust the government that they refuse the injection. A Facebook friend posted a 20-reason treatise on the wrongs the vaccine represents; it took less than an hour to debunk all of it. Funny, a number of the people who claim “experimental” are the same ones who in the past wanted the FDA to spend less time testing drugs.

If you choose not to get the vaccination over the government or a similar reason, you retain that choice. But are you entitled to do the things that demand a higher level of protection to self and others? In a word, no.

There are people who, for legitimate reasons, cannot be vaccinated. And I agree with Mr. Benninghoff that any system we create can not discriminate against them. They can carry an “exempt” passport; any entity that treats them differently can be punished.

I also agree with Benninghoff that we should not march in lockstep with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He’s pretty much demonstrated that, at this point, he’s unfit to be a leader.

But this seems like one of those situations the legislature has asked for, where they and Gov. Tom Wolf can sit down and hash out a set of rules that all can work with. How about choosing a trusted third party to issue the passports, and again, make them voluntary with the understanding that anti-vaxxers do not get a free pass (at least until actresses Jenny McCarthy and Alicia Silverstone get their medical immunology degrees).

Benninghoff (and state Sen. Jake Corman, who has not weighed in on the matter) — both of whom have the region’s largest employer in their districts — may not have a choice. If Penn State decides a passport is required to enter Beaver Stadium for football, will the state decide to help or hinder?

¯¯¯

Jeff Fishbein is The Sentinel’s Lifestyles and Special Projects Editor. He was vaccinated in February and looks forward to his next ocean cruise.

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