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County Supervisors Pass Resolution to Ban Vaccine Passports

October 12, 2021 at 8:46 pm

By Miriam Waldvogel

The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution 4-0 Tuesday banning the use of vaccine passports in government establishments and advocating for local businesses to do the same.

At the heart of the meeting’s two-hour discussion was the issue of personal freedom. A number of public commenters cited government overreach and a “unconstitutional mandate”, with one person calling it a “a god-given right to be able to move around freely in the communities that we live, work, and support.” Some comments also attacked the efficacy of vaccines, masks, and testing.

A few people also sent in comments against the resolution. “Personal freedom doesn’t give someone the right to spread a disease to other people,” one person wrote. “Individual choice is important, but when it affects the lives and health and safety of a community.”

The board letter accompanying the resolution cites the potential impact to businesses if unvaccinated people are prevented from working at or entering them, and claims that people who have already had COVID-19 are already much less susceptible to infection. (The CDC has found that the immunity gained from vaccination is much stronger from the immunity gained from having COVID-19).

The resolution itself bans the use of vaccine passports for county buildings and offices, but does not have the authority to do so for businesses. It therefore only recommends that businesses not require vaccinations. A blanket prohibition would require an ordinance, a possibility that the resolution’s author, Supervisor Tom Patti, left the door open to. Patti has been a frequent critic of California’s coronavirus response throughout the pandemic.

Supervisor Robert Rickman tried to distance the board from claims that they were anti-vaxxers, calling them “the furthest from the truth”. Supervisor Miguel Villapudua also spoke in favor of the resolution, saying “we’re in America. You choose what you want to do with your body, your life.” The three supervisors plus Supervisor Chuck Winn voted for the resolution.

Supervisor Kathy Miller was not in attendance, but voiced her opposition online. “To be clear, today’s resolution about vaccine passports was pure political theater, carries no legal weight and changes nothing,” she tweeted following the meeting.

The county’s position on vaccines is also at odds with the stance of the state government and several major California counties. While Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has said that there are no plans for a statewide vaccine passport, California became the first state in the country last week to require K-12 students to be vaccinated. The counties of Los Angeles and San Francisco have gone a step further by mandating vaccination for indoor activities.

Asm. Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) introduced a bill in January to ban vaccine passports in California, but it has garnered little support.