Republican state lawmakers in Oregon have introduced a bill that would make it illegal for the state to implement a vaccine passport system to check whether state residents have been vaccinated against the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).
The bill was introduced in the Oregon State Senate on Thursday, June 3, by Republican Sen. Kim Thatcher. Her bill would ban both public and private entities from using a person’s vaccination status as a condition for employment or service.
Thatcher’s bill, known as Senate Bill 872 (SB 872), is a response to state guidelines introduced in mid-May following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to loosen restrictions on fully vaccinated individuals. Under Oregon’s current framework, businesses and venues that want vaccinated individuals to no longer follow health requirements like masking and social distancing need to check the vaccination status of their patrons.
This guidance extends beyond businesses and includes houses of worship and other venues.
“[Gov. Kate Brown’s] vaccination passport scheme is an extreme invasion of Oregonians’ privacy,” said Thatcher in a news release that accompanied reports of her newly introduced bill. “No Oregonian should have to divulge medical information to participate in everyday life.”
“This bill is about making clear Oregonians’ rights, which have been railroaded by the Governor during the pandemic. One person cannot and should not have this much power over Oregonians’ lives and livelihoods.”
Thatcher’s statement included a survey conducted by the Medford Chamber of Commerce. It showed that 93 percent of businesses surveyed were not going to implement a policy that would condition maskless service with vaccination status.
The state senator further argued that instituting a vaccine passport system would violate the basic constitutional rights of Oregonians.
Her other statements regarding SB 872 suggest that it can go beyond the current issue of COVID-19 vaccine passports, and would completely ban public and private entities from making general vaccination status or the possession of vaccine credentials like a vaccine passport as a condition of service or employment.
Gov. Brown wants more Oregonians vaccinated
Thatcher’s proposed legislation comes just days after Brown, a Democrat, said that she wanted to see a 70 percent vaccination rate in the state by the end of June.
As of June 3, around 66 percent of adults in Oregon have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a little more than 127,000 people away from Brown’s stated benchmark.
Once the goal has been reached, Brown claimed restrictions on physical distancing, business capacity limits and the wearing of face masks in most settings will be lifted. (Related: Papers, please: Oregon demands that residents show “proof of vaccination” in order to live life.)
“I want to be very clear that we are able to reopen like this because of the efficacy of the vaccines,” claimed Brown in her statement. “For those of you who are vaccinated, you’ve helped us reach this point – and you are protected from this virus.”
“However, there are still Oregonians who need to take extra precautions to feel and stay safe. People battling cancer and immunocompromised Oregonians, to name a couple. There are also many Oregon kids who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.”
When Brown was asked about Thatcher’s bill, the governor said that there is already a system in place that allows businesses to make decisions about whether to require masks or to verify vaccination status. She refused to elaborate on her views regarding Thatcher’s bill, insisting that she was focused on the state achieving the 70 percent threshold.
SB 872 is yet to receive its first reading in the senate. A spokesperson from Thatcher’s office said the bill will be referred to a committee by Sen. President Peter Courtney – a Democrat – once it’s been read.
Thatcher admitted that, because both houses of Oregon’s legislature are controlled by the Democrats, SB 872 has little chance of being passed. But she said it will help get the conversation regarding vaccine passports going. She is also hopeful that the spotlight placed on SB 872 will lead to change in the future, especially when it comes to the plight of businesses in the state.
“Our local businesses have gone through a lot this year,” said Thatcher. “The last thing we should be doing is making them play mask and vaccine cop. They have much more important things to do, like getting back to normal so Oregonians can earn a living.”
Learn more about the attempts by Democratic politicians like Gov. Brown to implement vaccine passports by reading the latest articles at Vaccines.news.