Op-Ed: Mandatory Vaccine Passports do not belong in the Birthplace of Freedom

One year after COVID shutdown orders radically changed the way we live our lives; Pennsylvania is slowly returning to some semblance of normalcy as the Wolf Administration begins to belatedly relax certain restrictions. Pennsylvanians are eager to return to life and once again dine out at a restaurant, catch a movie at a theater, cheer on a team at a sporting event, or attend a service at Church. These activities with our friends and family are a freedom many of us took for granted before they were taken away from us.

But imagine that you and your family are planning to attend a ball game. The usher at the entrance takes your ticket and then asks to see a “Passport App” on your smartphone. The app reveals you have yet to receive a COVID vaccination. The usher is forced to deny entry to you and your family in the name of “public safety.”

Sadly, this scenario is not a fantasy or a conspiracy theory. It is a very real situation that could be coming to Pennsylvania and the rest of America later this year.

Look no further than our neighboring state to the North.

Earlier this week, New York partnered with big tech firm IBM to release its “Excelsior Pass” passport app. The state is using $2.5 million in taxpayer funds for the app to provide it to businesses and individuals. While businesses are not required to use the pass for entry yet, there is already talk of establishments in New York being rewarded for mandating the app by being allowed to relax certain social distance mandates by the state government. A mandatory passport requirement from the state for most businesses is likely not far away.

During a press appearance last week, Governor Wolf indicated that he supports the idea of a vaccine passport. Much like every other major decision during the pandemic, Wolf is once again looking to the failed policies of New York.

PA’s Acting Secretary of Health also delivered troubling remarks last week during a press conference. While providing an update on vaccination efforts in the state, the Secretary said: “How do we collectively partner on making sure folks understand that the facts and science are there, that the health and safety of our communities is reliant upon us getting vaccinated? And that the freedom that so many folks want… will be facilitated best when we have the most folks vaccinated in the community.”

With all due respect to the Acting Secretary, freedom to live life is not something that the government can hold hostage to force a population to comply with an order. Freedom is not something the government gives; we receive it as an American birthright from the Bill of Rights.

There are a number of reasons why someone might be reluctant to receive a vaccination. An individual may not feel comfortable due to medical reasons, religious beliefs, or moral convictions.

Additionally, some are wary of taking a vaccine that is still brand new and has had some documented negative effects. According to CDC Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) data as of March 26th, over 2,200 individuals have died shortly following a COVID shot. Over that same period, there were over 50,000 cases of adverse effects reported.

These concerns aren’t just limited to COVID vaccines. In 2020, there were over 48,000 reported cases of adverse effects from all vaccinations and 343 deaths. 130 of these adverse effects were life threatening, required hospitalization, or a trip to the ER.

Regardless of whether we agree with an individual’s decision to receive a vaccine or not, it is not our place to make that decision for them.

The Pennsylvania legislature must take action to affirm that individuals have the basic human right to decide what goes into their body. All vaccination decisions should be between a patient and their physician, including the right to informed consent, or informed refusal. With this is mind, I have introduced “The Medical Freedom Act” in the Pennsylvania Senate.

One central provision of my bill will mandate that an individual cannot be denied entry or service for refusal to provide proof of a vaccination.  Businesses who ignore this new law will not be eligible for state funded grants or contracts. 

The Medical Freedom Act is not “anti-vax.”  If you want a vaccine, you should be able to get one. In fact, the General Assembly has acted this year to pass bills to supplement and improve Governor Wolf’s lackluster COVID vaccine distribution strategy.   But it is important that the liberties of those who choose not to be vaccinated are protected.

The bottom line is that you and you alone should have sovereignty over what goes into your body.  The paradox is that the left mindlessly chants “my body, my choice” when it comes to abortion but forgets this creed when it is really about your body. 

Oh, the irony and hypocrisy.  Should we really trust the most personal medical decisions to science denying bureaucrats who thought it was a good idea to reject 150 years of germ / bacteria study to send Covid-positive patients back into nursing homes to our most vulnerable population? This irrational decision by our Secretary of Health led to the deaths of nearly 13,000 of our dearly loved elderly. Should such a person dictate what goes into your body?

No, these unelected bureaucrats should never be able to coerce anyone in our commonwealth to make such personal medical decisions.  There is simply no justification for this overreach.  You and you alone should decide.

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