Newsom insists California’s COVID-19 vaccine verification system is not vaccine passport

State’s reopening rules allow businesses to require individuals to show vaccine cards to prove they don’t need to wear a mask.

Updated: June 15, 2021 - 11:54pm

In response to California announcing it would be unveiling a new "vaccine verification system" for private businesses, Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters that he does not believe it is a vaccine passport.

On Tuesday, California fully reopened without capacity limits, with the state transitioning to an updated mask mandate. Masks are still required to be worn in schools and by those who do not receive the vaccine inside restaurants and other public indoor settings.

The reopening allows businesses to require individuals to show paper vaccine cards to prove they don’t need to wear a mask. Businesses were told by the state that they will have three options related to vaccines and mask mandates. Business owners can provide information to customers and not require anything at all. They can implement “vaccine verification” to determine which people must wear a mask, or they can require everyone to wear a mask.

Because some individuals have already started to produce counterfeit paper cards designed to show if someone has received one or both of the COVID-19 shots, the state began developing an electronic version of the paper version. Individuals will be able to show businesses their electronic vaccine verification information from their phones.

Newsom told reporters the electronic system “is not a passport. It’s not a requirement. It’s just the ability now to have an electronic version of that paper version. You’ll hear more about that in the next couple days.

“As it relates to technology and the tools of technology, there are opportunities to make available, different strategies to provide more secure, safe, and transparent form of verification. But again, this is voluntary. So I want to make this crystal clear before folks run with it – it’s become so politicized, almost everything in the state, nation – that there’s no mandates, no requirement, no passports in that respect.

Roughly half of U.S. states have banned any state agency or business, depending on the state, from requiring vaccine passports. All states that have done so are led by Republicans.