Health officials in Orange County announced this week that they would begin a pilot program to test digital COVID-19 vaccine passports.

Orange County Health Care Agency said on Twitter that the Digital Passport allows individuals to engage safely and with peace of mind in activities that include encounters with other people, such as travel, attractions, conferences/meetings, concerts, sports, and education.

Starting April 15, Orange County will authorize private parties of more than 50 participants if all guests are tested or provide evidence of complete vaccination, according to California state officials.

Orange County is now in the orange tier of the state’s four-tier reopening blueprint, which is color-coded. Suppose the area remains in that tier by April 15. In that case, residents will be able to host private events such as wedding receptions or conferences of up to 300 guests outside or 150 indoors if everyone provides evidence of complete vaccination, as required by state guidelines, reports Fox5.

Disneyland, the Orange County Fairgrounds, and Soka University are among the county’s mass inoculation sites where the vaccine appointment scheduling app Othena is being used. It is a tool that will be likely to appear on a platform called CommonPass.

It can be accessed by other applications and services, which means it could be used to gain entry to a concert or a flight.

According to the county statistics, 598,838 people in Orange County have been completely vaccinated, while another 589,230 have received just one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

However, by using a vaccine passport, it has sparked debate on whether this is government overreach and questions about whether having them will create inequities because not everyone has access to a smartphone.

Last week, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis released an executive order stating that no government agency can issue a vaccine passport, and no companies in the state can request them.

According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, the federal government would not mandate Americans to have vaccine passports.

 In a Tuesday media conference, she said that “the government is not now, nor will be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There will be no federal vaccination database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

California state health officials have already expressed their interest.

Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s Public Health Officer, said last week that the state has no plans to establish vaccine passports but will follow the federal government’s lead. Aragón noted that if the government does not move quickly enough, they will develop technical requirements that would be expected, emphasizing the importance of protecting privacy and equity.

Although the United States Travel Association is pleased to see people receiving the vaccine, its President Roger Dow claimed that a vaccine passport is a real issue. He said that it sounds amazing, but the bottom line is that it is logistically a nightmare, it is discriminatory, and many people, including him, who have had COVID, have antibodies, and his doctor says his chances of having COVID are zero.

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