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Gov. Greg Gianforte last week hopped on what’s become the latest Republican bandwagon by issuing an executive order banning “vaccine passports.”

But what does that actually mean? What is the actual reach of Gianforte’s edict?

The order prohibits state agencies from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to access their facilities or services. OK, he can issue such a directive for executive branch agencies. But does his authority extend beyond that — to the judicial branch, for example? Not likely.

The order says private-sector businesses cannot require proof of vaccination to access their services. But if airlines want to demand passengers show proof of vaccination or recent test results to board their planes, it’s doubtful the governor has any authority to prevent that.

And does the ban on vaccine passports extend to other diseases? Is he suggesting local school boards can no longer require proof of vaccinations preventing polio, measles and whooping cough as a condition of enrollment — as they have for decades? Though exemptions are granted for those with religious objections or health issues, the vast majority of parents have complied with these requirements and cases of those dangerous diseases have fallen dramatically in our schools as a result.

In recent years, a proliferation of exemption requests from antivaxxers has led to outbreaks of whooping cough and measles in local schools. If schools are no longer allowed to demand proof of certain vaccinations, are we ready for a rebound of polio?

Gianforte needs to consider the implications of his order and clarify his intent.

The coronavirus vaccines, which have proven remarkably effective, are our ticket out of this pandemic. People are perfectly free to forego vaccination and accept the risks of doing so. But they may face consequences beyond the possibility of contracting a serious illness, including the loss of access to some services — such as air travel.

So much of the rhetoric arising from the pandemic and the health care community’s response to it has been exaggeration that promotes irrational fear. And these bans on vaccine passports are just another example. Let’s drop the fear-mongering and realize there is sound science behind the development of these vaccines and only minuscule risk associated with them.

They are far and away the best alternative going forward in our battle with the pandemic.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Charles Rinker, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, either leave a comment on the page below or write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.