CONCORD — Requiring citizens to have a government-issued vaccine passport to travel and to attend public events would needlessly stir more controversy over the risk of contracting COVID-19, Gov. Chris Sununu said Tuesday.
During a Washington Post live interview with columnist Karen Tumulty on Tuesday, Sununu said private businesses and colleges have every right to impose vaccine requirements on their workers or students, though some of those requirements would likely get tested in court.
“Washington is so removed from what is happening on the ground. We shouldn’t be mandating anything. These vaccine passports, creating the haves and the have-nots, you are just going to create a lot of problems and anxiety,” Sununu said.
The comments came on the same day Dr. Anthony Fauci said the federal government would not be mandating vaccine passports for travel and businesses. The White House has indicated any potential passports would come from the private sector, with little direct involvement from the government.
“I doubt that the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept,” Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told the Politico Dispatch podcast.
New York last week became the first state to launch a passport — a voluntary app that allows people to upload proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result that can be scanned before entering a business. Beginning next week, California will allow event venues to require proof of vaccination or a negative test result.
Meanwhile, the Republican governors of Texas and Florida have signed executive orders that would ban the use of vaccine passports in their states.
The passport debuted in Israel last February and let vaccinated people attend events and patronize restaurants and gyms in that country. Other European countries have used proof of vaccination to permit non-citizens to enter their nations without quarantine.
Sununu: Vaccine ‘a choice’
Sununu said the passport runs counter to New Hampshire’s tradition of treating vaccines as voluntary.
New Hampshire became the last state in the country to create a registry for all those who receive other immunizations against disease.
“I am very hesitant about any of that. At the end of the day, it is an individual choice,” Sununu said.
“The reason this is coming up is because we are doing so well as a country. We are getting to the end of the road here … I think you are going to get pushback from everybody, and not just from Republicans.”
Supporters of these passports, otherwise known as COVID-status certificates, said they could eventually eliminate the need to conduct testing of audiences at live events or of passengers heading onto international flights.
In the U.S., some airline industry leaders have been advocates for a vaccine passport.
Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, said he strongly opposed the idea, and he warned it could impede the state’s economic recovery.
“Here in New Hampshire, we believe in common sense and personal freedom. While I would encourage every citizen to get vaccinated, a ‘vaccine passport’ that separates our state into two unequal groups of people is both offensive to our shared values and disruptive to a functioning, unified community,” Morse said.
“Additionally, this type of restriction can only further harm the already ailing small businesses here in New Hampshire.”
Governor opposes $2T bill
On another topic, Sununu said Congress should slam the brakes on passing a $2 trillion infrastructure bill and wait until state and local governments have spent funding in the recently passed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief law, which includes some public works projects.
“How do we know where the needs are?” Sununu said.
“I would like to see Washington show a little bit of fiscal responsibility. Somebody has to pay for this. I’ve got kids, young kids, and they are going to be paying for this for a generation. The spending has been out of control, and both parties have been irresponsible with regards to it.”
Before Biden unveiled his infrastructure plan last week, U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., said he was working on his own $1.5 trillion plan.
He hosted some roundtables in New Hampshire to talk about what spending is needed here.
Former Democratic Party Chairman Kathy Sullivan of Manchester said Biden’s proposed legislation would help improve climate change while sustaining a more robust economy.
“Actually, given the focus on green economy in this bill, I feel better about my grandkids’ futures,” Sullivan said. “If we don’t invest in this, I am worried about their having a habitable planet. Now is the last chance we have.”