Response to Questions from Senator Ted Cruz on Vaccine Passports

In my Congressional testimony I got into a little back and forth with Senator Ted Cruz on vaccine passports. Subsequently, I was asked to respond to a series of follow-up questions of the form:

If a vaccine passport or any other type of vaccine credential is required by individual private companies, do you have any concerns with a [educational institution/airline/grocery store…] refusing service or otherwise discriminating against an individual that:

(a) chooses not to receive the vaccine?
(b) is not a suitable candidate to receive the vaccine for medical reasons?

My response:

During the pandemic it was common for bars and restaurants, churches, gyms, shopping malls, entertainment venues, schools and universities and even parks and beaches in the United States to be closed for everyone. Similarly, international travel has been severely restricted for everyone. I think it an improvement to move from closed-for-all to open-for-some. Thus vaccine passports represent a lifting of restrictions and an increase in freedom on the path back to normality. Greece, for example, is scheduled to open to anyone with a record of vaccination, negative COVID test, or previous infection. This is good for Greece which relies on tourist revenues for a significant share of its economy and good for the world who want to visit sunny beaches and ancient ruins.

Moving in stages, from closed-for-all to open-for-some to fully-open, is reasonable. The aim, of course, is to be open-for-all, an achievable aim if a large enough proportion of the population is vaccinated. As we move to normality we should also make it possible for the non-vaccinated to access as many services as possible on reasonable grounds, for example, through the use of testing and masks.

It bears repeating that the best way to avoid these difficult decisions is for as many people as possible to be vaccinated, thus making social life safe for the unvaccinated as well as the vaccinated. For these reasons I have supported free vaccinations, stretching doses to vaccinate more people quickly through policies such as delaying the second dose and testing fractional doses, using single-shot vaccines, and developing nasal and oral vaccines.


Alex Tabarrok
Department of Economics
George Mason University


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