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Senator Steven Oroho

Senator Declan O'Scanlon
Senator Steve Oroho

Oroho & O’Scanlon: We Don’t Need Vaccine Passports. They’re Based on Irrational Fears.

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The following editorial by Senator Steven Oroho (R-24) and Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13) on the irrational fear behind calls for vaccine passports was published by NJ.com on December 10, 2021:

Vaccine passports in New Jersey are unnecessary, based on irrational fear, and would offer little more than the illusion of safety. Forcing people to display proof of vaccination amounts to little more than pandemic theater that is ineffective at eliminating risk, as some may desire.

In an NJ.com editorial, Sen. Steven Oroho and Sen. Declan O’Scanlon say recent calls for vaccine passports to be imposed on New Jersey are based on irrational fears and would offer little more than an illusion of safety. (SenateNJ.com)

Our position is supported by a review of public health data, federal guidance on vaccinations, and the growing sentiment from health experts that COVID-19 is here to stay.

With a variety of options available to each of us to reduce our individual risk to a level with which we are comfortable, we believe it’s time to stop being scared of the virus and to start living life again, without an intrusive and ineffective new mandate.

The Star-Ledger Editorial Board Editor Tom Moran clearly disagrees with that assessment. In a recent column, he lamented that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has not been as “aggressive” as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in implementing a strict vaccine passport scheme for entry to “most public places.”

Since vaccine passports aren’t currently required in New Jersey, he bemoans having to make a choice about whether to take a risk every time he wants to visit the Mexican restaurant he recently discovered near his new home in Jersey City.

As an alternative, he said he could cross the river into Manhattan where vaccines passports are required, which leaves him with “the warm and fuzzy feeling of sitting down to a meal without worrying so much…”

Mr. Moran inadvertently proves a point that many people, including him, seem to forget after nearly two years of the pandemic. All of us are forced to make decisions every single day about the level of risk we are willing to tolerate as we go about our lives.

We do that when we weigh ordering a cheeseburger instead of a salad, which might increase our risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States in 2020.

We also do that when we decide whether or not to get recommended screenings for the various types of cancer, which collectively accounted for the second-most deaths in the nation last year.

When it comes to COVID-19, however, Mr. Moran seems to feel that free will and having to make personal decisions about risk are dreadful burdens that Governor Murphy should lift off his shoulders — and everyone else’s — by executive order.

We are concerned when calls such as his are made to impose disruptive, divisive and ineffective mandates on all of us. We know there are some in positions of power who are all too willing to listen.

Other than the optics of “doing something,” it’s not clear why an authoritarian vaccine passport scheme would make anyone feel safer when the science clearly shows that fully vaccinated people can both contract and transmit COVID-19.

While vaccinated people are likely infectious for less time, the risk of contagion is reduced, not eliminated.

To that point, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns plainly: “If you are fully vaccinated and become infected with the Delta variant, you can spread the virus to others.”

Here in New Jersey, a full 25% of positive tests from Nov. 8 to 14 for COVID-19 are from fully vaccinated people, according to the reporting of NJ.com.

Any one of those thousands of vaccinated yet infected people could be seated at the table next to Mr. Moran — exposing him to the virus while he enjoys his enchiladas — despite the false sense of security he or anyone else might feel with a vaccine passport system in place.

With a virus that public health officials say will likely become endemic, we must accept that exposures will be inevitable.

For those with concerns, solutions already exist that do not include ineffective mandates imposed on the rest of us by executive order.

First, vaccinations are widely available to everyone age 5 and up. According to the CDC, those who are fully vaccinated, including Mr. Moran, have little risk of severe illness, hospitalization, or death should they become infected.

Six million New Jerseyans are fully vaccinated, 1 million have had one dose, and 1.3 million have had the virus and developed immunity. Most people out there have a substantial level of protection.

Given those facts, it’s clear that many vaccinated people are exhibiting irrational fear about the risk of being in public places. For most of us, the food we choose to put on our plate is likely the greatest threat to our health when dining out.

Second, even without government mandates, individual establishments already have the ability to enact whatever COVID-19 policies they believe are right for their customers and staff.

Many businesses have differing policies on masks and social distancing, for example, giving consumers a variety of choices.

If a customer disagrees with an establishment’s policies, they can take their business elsewhere or ask the proprietor to make changes to keep their business, including checking the vaccination status of patrons. Chances are some will listen, hoping for a competitive edge. That’s how the free market works.

Finally, anyone who doesn’t feel that the protection of their own vaccination or the variety of options offered by businesses are enough to make them feel safe can always choose to just stay home. That’s a personal choice many have made without complaint.

For Mr. Moran, there’s one last option that would allow him to enjoy the food of his favorite Mexican restaurant in a risk-free way without the imposition of vaccine passports on the rest of us less timid souls: they deliver.

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