Owlett joins PA House Republicans in vote to ban ‘vaccine passports’

Pennsylvania News

FILE – In this undated photo, provided by NY Governor’s Press Office on Saturday March 27, 2021, is the new “Excelsior Pass” app, a digital pass that people can download to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Vaccine passports being developed to verify COVID-19 immunization status and allow inoculated people to more freely travel, shop and dine have become the latest flash point in America’s perpetual political wars, with Republicans portraying them as a heavy-handed intrusion into personal freedom and private health choices. (NY Governor’s Press Office via AP, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WETM/AP) — Representative Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) and Republicans in the Pennsylvania House on Wednesday voted to ban the use of so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passports” by colleges, universities or government buildings and put new restrictions on the health secretary’s powers during a health emergency.

New York implemented the “Excelsior Pass” as one of the nation’s first vaccine passports to verify whether or not someone has received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Representatives voted 112-89, on party lines, to approve the measure that supporters described as a way to protect private health information, but opponents warned would needlessly endanger public health.

“The people spoke loud and clear last month that they’d had enough of the unilateral authority of the Wolf administration during the past 16 months. They want their rights and their freedoms protected,” Owlett said. “The bill we passed today takes another step forward by ensuring all Pennsylvanians have the right to make the best medical decisions for ourselves and for our children.

“My vote today reflects what the vast majority of constituents in the 68th District have been asking for…NO vaccine passports!”

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The bill would also prevent the state health secretary from ordering closures and from requiring people who have not been exposed to a contagion to physically distance, wear a mask, “conduct a specific hygienic practice” such as hand-washing, quarantine or restrict travel.

The Wolf administration believes those restrictions, if enacted, would apply in all cases, not just during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal was amended in the House, so has to go back to the state Senate for another vote before it can land on Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk. Wolf said he will veto it.

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