White House Tries to Avoid 'Heavy-handed' Approach With Vaccine Passports

Lindsay Kalter

March 29, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Biden administration is tackling the "tricky and important" task of developing a system of credentials for those who have been vaccinated — referred to as "vaccine passports" — while trying not to overstep its role, White House senior COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said during a Monday briefing.

"We do know there's a segment of the population that is concerned the government will play too heavy-handed of a role in monitoring their vaccinations," Slavitt said. "We think we can have the best of all worlds and essentially put forward guidelines and guidance."

He added, "Unlike other parts of the world, the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport or the place to hold the data of citizens."

Slavitt's statement comes on the heels of a report from The Washington Post yesterday, citing five anonymous officials who discussed a passport initiative underway at the White House.  

Other countries have uncovered their own plans for a passport system. The European Union announced the upcoming release of digital certificates that will be required for travel.

During the briefing, top coronavirus expert Anthony Fauci, MD, reiterated some of the debilitating and long-term effects of the disease. He emphasized the possibility of neurological symptoms often seen in the COVID-19 "long-haulers" — those include brain fog, tingling or numbness in extremities, confusion, and seizures.

"One-third of people with COVID-19 never develop symptoms. That's the good news," Fauci said.  "Of those who do develop symptoms, about 80% have mild to moderate symptoms. but about 20% or more have severe disease."

He added, "The bottom line is: this is a very, very bad disease."