COVID vaccine passports don’t exist in Michigan, but a House panel voted to ban them anyway

By: - May 13, 2021 11:18 am

Naomi Wolf at the House Oversight Committee hearing on vaccine passports, May 6, 2021 | Screenshot

The House Oversight Committee voted Thursday to send a bill banning governmental entities from producing or issuing a COVID-19 vaccine passport to the full House of Representatives.

There was a substitute to House Bill 4667, sponsored by Rep. Sue Allor (R-Wolverine), which Committee Chair Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) said addresses concerns that were raised by Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Okemos) about the original bill potentially penalizing individuals with a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination card given out to those who have received their shot(s).

While Brixie pointed out that the substitute still does not include an explicit exemption for the cards, Johnson said they would be allowed since their primary purpose is as a medical record, not to be used “for the primary purpose of diminishing, or enlarging, individual civil and political rights, privileges, and capacities based on the individual’s COVID-19 vaccination status.”

Neither Gov. Gretchen Whitmer nor President Joe Biden have proposed a vaccine passport system.

Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) made a small government argument against the bill, saying they should issue legislative restraint and address issues that are currently before them, rather than legislating on issues that may come at some point in the future.

At another hearing on the bill last week, LaGrand joked that the Legislature could pass bills banning Bigfoot or banning moving the Capitol to the bottom of Lake Michigan.

“I wouldn’t want to have to scuba dive to go to work,” LaGrand said last week. “There’s an infinite number of things we could ban preemptively, but our job, frankly, is to take action and set policy on things that are actively under consideration.”

The committee last week also gave a platform to conspiracy theorist and author Naomi Wolf, a feminist author who came to national prominence in the 1990s who has recently repeatedly shared false claims about the pandemic and vaccines on Fox News and social media.

Wolf has previously falsely claimed that Apple is working on “new tech to deliver vaccines w nanopatticles [sic] that let you travel back in time,” that Microsoft founder Bill Gates had genetically modified mosquitoes to inject people with vaccines, and that 5G technology “turns human sweat glands into conductors for harmful spectrum frequencies.”

At the hearing, Wolf shared a conspiracy theory that a digital vaccine passport would use artificial intelligence to analyze individuals’ social media presence and punish people for their opinions.

“If you gather after this hearing with your friends in a bar to discuss opposition to the vaccine passport, your app will know who you’re meeting with because you’ll have to swipe a QR code,” Wolf claimed without evidence.

Vaccine passports were compared to the Holocaust three times during last week’s hearing, and Johnson said the bill’s intent was to prevent the government from “creating two tiers of citizens based on personal medical decisions.”

“I would be remiss if I didn’t state for the record that the comparisons of the COVID vaccine to systemic racism, segregation and the Holocaust are appalling and abhorrent,” Brixie said.

The bill sent to the full House on Thursday would apply only to governments. Additional bills have been introduced to expand the scope of the hypothetical ban. 


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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a former reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.