As California looks toward reopening fully by June 15, the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS, Poll found significant support for different forms of vaccine verification for some businesses.
The first area of focus in the poll was the approval of allowing certain businesses, such as sports stadiums and concert venues, to check patrons’ vaccination status or recent COVID-19 test results. Nearly two in every three Californians supported some form of verification at these venues, as well as allowing employers to enforce vaccination mandates for their employees.
“I think that this means that the majority of California voters are seeing vaccines as the way forward toward reopening,” said IGS co-director Cristina Mora. “Their stamp of approval is their okay on vaccines being the way out of this. Rather than an honor system or (trust), most people want some system.”
While there was some consensus on private vaccine verification, IGS Poll director Mark DiCamillo noted there was no clear majority opinion on the government’s role. More than a third of respondents called for the government to establish a “uniform verification system,” 32% said they should play a limited role, and 26% said they should play no role at all, according to the poll.
DiCamillo and Mora agreed that the poll highlighted a clear partisan divide, with Democrats typically supporting vaccine verification and Republicans opposing it. The lack of consensus within parties on government involvement, however, reflected how responding to this stage of the pandemic was a “no man’s land,” according to Mora.
“I think that this is about whether we have resources. Do we have ideas and capacity?” Mora said. “We can create policies that are only as good as the capacity we have to carry it out. Business owners might really want everyone to be vaccinated, but will they have the capacity to do this?”
Although some believe a government database on vaccination status may be a breach of privacy, campus professor of epidemiology Arthur Reingold said there is a precedent for such systems. All 50 states have some sort of immunization registry that documents vaccinations received by children, according to Reingold.
Lee Riley, campus professor in epidemiology and infectious diseases, added that the idea of “vaccine passports” is not new either. Some countries still require certification of vaccination against yellow fever, according to Riley; when he tried to travel to Ecuador without being vaccinated, Riley said he was denied entry.
“We all live in society together, and all kinds of rules come with that,” Reingold said. “Wearing seatbelts, stopping at a stop sign, wearing clothes when you go to a restaurant. We have laws that require certain behaviors whether you want to or not, and that includes being vaccinated.”