ST. LOUIS — St. Louis' top health official said Wednesday that local governments aren't equipped to create digital proof of coronavirus vaccination, increasingly being sought by businesses and universities as a fast way to see who's inoculated.
That means St. Louisans will be unlikely to get an official "vaccine passport," as Missouri lawmakers, including Gov. Mike Parson, rail against the idea as an invasion of privacy. They're at odds with Democratic states like New York that have ramped up official passes.
"We are following the state's lead, and based on information released by the governor, that's not something that the state of Missouri will be pursuing," said Dr. Fredrick Echols, the city of St. Louis' acting director for the Department of Public Health. "We have to be mindful of the capacity or lack-thereof to implement something like a vaccination passport system. If the proper support structures aren't in place, it would be extremely difficult to implement."
Echols said only a "comprehensive approach" would make such an endeavor successful.
"It wouldn't make a lot of sense for the city of St. Louis to have something in place, St. Louis County to have something and then St. Charles County," Echols said. "There really needs to be one comprehensive plan for the state if something like that would happen," he said, adding that myriad approaches would be confusing for the travel industry.
Businesses are beginning to embrace digital vaccination proof, the New York Times reported, with 17 companies or nonprofits developing websites or apps that might be used by sporting venues, restaurants and other businesses seeking to keep their customers and employees safe.
But Echols said because of uncertainty around how long immunity from vaccinations last, "the focus has to be around prevention," through masks, social distancing and hygiene. Plus, the state was reporting Thursday that 20.2% of city residents had initiated vaccination, though all Missourians will be eligible for vaccines starting Friday, if they meet the manufacturers' age requirements.
Though there's still a ways to go to beat COVID-19, "you can get tunnel vision, and focus solely on one particular condition, when we have all these other illnesses we have to be mindful of," Echols said.
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