Leaders in the greater Washington area are discussing the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine passport, as proof of immunization, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said on Wednesday.
Elrich told reporters during a media briefing that other regional leaders are interested in the idea, although he didn’t name any specifically. The leaders are scheduled to discuss the idea at a meeting later this week, he said.
Elrich said that there’s reluctance among other leaders to implement a vaccination passport on a “jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis,” and that a regional or statewide approach would be most effective.
“It wouldn’t do us any good just to do it in one county, “he said. “Doing this as a collective action would help make all of our residents safer.”
So far, the discussions are preliminary, Elrich said.
“We’re not announcing anything for the council to take on next week at this point, so we’ll see how this evolves,” he said.
New York City is set to implement a vaccination requirement for indoor spaces this month, the first large city to do so in the United States, The Associated Press reported.
Montgomery County re-implemented its indoor mask mandate last weekend in response to continually rising COVID-19 case numbers due to the spread of the delta variant.
On Wednesday, the county recorded 130 new cases — the sixth day out of seven in which more than 100 cases were added.
As of Tuesday, 71.6% of Montgomery County’s total population was fully vaccinated, and 84.4% of the population age 12 and older was fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Elrich said that if a vaccine passport were implemented in the county, about 85% of the residents would still be able to frequent businesses. He said he thinks many businesses will support the idea because the customers will feel more comfortable being in public.
“This would not have much of a hit on businesses. What it would do is prevent people who aren’t vaccinated from going into those settings,” he said. “People are staying away from places if they feel vulnerable, and the news that there are breakthrough cases doesn’t make people feel comfortable.”
Montgomery County acting Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Earl Stoddard said he didn’t think children younger than 12 would have a vaccine passport, since they are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
“We’re in the infancy of the conversation in the Capital Region. I don’t know that [the vaccine passport is] necessarily gonna happen. But I would think you would not apply it to those who are ineligible for the vaccine,” Stoddard said.
Asked about the potential for re-imposing other restrictions in the county, such as capacity limits, Stoddard said officials “won’t go down that road” unless there is a sharp increase in hospitalizations.
So far, the recent case increase has not been accompanied by a large increase in hospitalizations, he said.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org