COVID-19 vaccine

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama lawmakers on Monday inched forward to banning so-called vaccine passports that would prohibit proof of a coronavirus vaccination to enter a business, school or event.

The legislation would "prohibit the issuance of vaccine passports" by state agencies and prevent people from being denied entry to businesses, universities, schools and state agencies if they have not been vaccinated for COVID-19.

However, the legislation does not specify any penalty for violations. The Alabama House of Representatives voted 76-16 for the bill. The Alabama Senate must now decide whether to agree to minor House changes.

"We need this bill. We don't want to require people who are going to a business as a customer or going to a football game — or whatever it is — to be mandated to show a vaccine passport," Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, said.

Republicans across the country have backed bans on so-called vaccine passports even though they are not in widespread use anywhere, portraying them as a government intrusion into personal freedom and health choices. Some Alabama House Democrats criticized the bill after House Republicans stripped language that would have made exemptions for nursing homes and other health offices.

"When does it become your right to pass on your illness on to someone else," Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, said.

Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, said he is concerned about the people who will knowingly go into crowds without being vaccinated and are "willing to put other folks life in danger."

"Right now I know there are people out there that are not vaccinated that spread COVID," Howard said.

Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, who handled the bill in the House, said businesses could still require customers to wear masks. He also said health offices could ask someone if they had been vaccinated and adjust safety protocols as needed.

The idea of so-called vaccine passports is to have a document that shows you were vaccinated against COVID-19. Federal officials say there are no plans to make them broadly mandatory, but some Republican governors have issued orders barring businesses or state agencies from asking people to show proof of vaccination.

Hawaii has a limited vaccine passport program for inter-island travel that allows people who received their vaccine shots in the state of Hawaii to skip testing and quarantine rules for travel between the islands. New York officials have launched a digital app New Yorkers can download to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

The Senate approved the bill earlier this session by a 30-0 vote.

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Follow AP's coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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