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Op/ed: How Delta Has Changed the Game

Public Health Researcher Argues It’s Time for a National Vaccine Verification System

By Neil Jay Sehgal

Vaccine verification site at Giants baseball game

Photo by Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group/Tribune News Service

San Francisco Giants fans check in at COVID-19 vaccination/negative test verification booths at the team's home opener in April. California and a few other states have implemented vaccine verification systems, but a UMD researcher argues a nationwide system is needed.

From businesses to government agencies, vaccine mandates are becoming an increasingly important tool to fight COVID-19, but the rapid spread of the more virulent Delta variant means a patchwork approach is no longer enough to ensure people are actually following the requirements, a University of Maryland public health scholar writes in an opinion piece published today in The Baltimore Sun.

What’s needed is a nationwide system to track vaccination status to replace various state systems and “honor code” compliance, writes Neil Jay Sehgal, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management:

In April, as COVID-19 was on the decline in the U.S., and our collective optimism about the pandemic’s end was palpable, the Biden administration insisted that there would be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring a single vaccination credential. Such vaccine verification—the so-called “vaccine passport”—is politically fraught, much like everything else surrounding this pandemic. Today, 20 Republican-controlled states prohibit proof-of-vaccination requirements, and only four states, California, New York, Hawaii and Oregon, have created vaccine verification systems.

The virus that these states and the federal government were legislating for is a thing of the past, however. The delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is so much more infectious than previous strains that it behaves in many ways like a different virus entirely. Yet, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that the war has changed, our thinking about vaccine verification has not.

Read the rest in The Baltimore Sun.

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