The Biden administration last spring said it would take the lead in creating optional digital credentials for people to show they’ve been vaccinated against the Coronavirus — so-called vaccine passports — for businesses and other venues that want to impose vaccination requirements. Since the administration hasn’t realized that goal, several states are now setting up their own systems. Meanwhile, the first hints have appeared of a potential market in fake vaccine credentials.

This is a failure of leadership from the White House, plain and simple. But it’s not too late to rectify it. Federal guidance — not a mandate, but guidance — would still be useful to ensure the nation doesn’t have multiple conflicting vaccine-passport standards, which would lead to confusion, especially in state-border areas like St. Louis.

Of course, governors in some red states, like Florida, have already shut the door, for now, on the entire concept of vaccine passports. That and their adjacent work to prevent mask mandates has had predictable consequences: Florida has higher death rates now than it did at the height of the pandemic last year. As the bodies pile up, we can only hope that the residents of those states will finally force their leaders to start acting responsibly or replace them with others who will.

In the meantime, increasing numbers of other states are exploring standards for electronic vaccine passports that would allow the vaccinated to prove their status (if they choose) to businesses that want to require it (if they choose). That’s how it should work, with options, not government mandates. But state governments are in a position to provide the tools to those businesses to verify vaccination status. Currently, it’s either the honor system or use of paper vaccination cards that can be (and, authorities report, increasingly are being) forged by those who refuse vaccination but still want the societal benefits that come with it.

As Politico reports, California, New York and Louisiana are using a system developed by Apple, Microsoft, the Mayo Clinic and others called Smart Health Cards. It stores the person’s vaccination record on their cellphone where it can be scanned by businesses at the door to confirm vaccination. Since the records originate with the health agency that provided the vaccination, it’s not easily forged. Anyone who doesn’t want the option of a digital card could simply choose not to get one.

As states gravitate toward that or one of the other systems out there, the administration should choose one and encourage other states to get behind it. At this point, it’s too late for the White House to do anything more than figure out which way most states are going and try to make that the national standard. That’s the minimum the administration should do. The path out of the pandemic can’t realistically be in 50 different directions.

Reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Creators Syndicate

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