Gov. Kim Reynolds: ‘I strongly oppose vaccine passports,’ will take steps to limit their use

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she is in discussion with the state Legislature about limiting use of “vaccine passports,” which would verify people have been vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The idea of using the so-called passports for travel or at entry points to venues has sparked a political divide, and Republican lawmakers and governors in several states are working on proposals to ban them. The White House has said the federal government will not roll out its own system requiring Americans to carry vaccine credentials

Reynolds said she believes the shots are effective, and she noted she has been vaccinated. But she said vaccination should remain a personal choice. A passport system would create a “two-tiered society” and have privacy implications, she said during a news conference Wednesday. 

“I strongly oppose vaccine passports and I believe that we must take a stand as a state against them, which I intend to do either through legislation or executive action,” she said. 

Reynolds later said she is still looking into the wording of such a ban and how broad the measure would be, including whether it would cover efforts by the private sector. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the state passed 1 million residents with at least one dose of vaccine in their arm. Of those, more than 675,000 Iowans are fully vaccinated, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Reynolds opened COVID-19 vaccination to all Iowans 16 or older beginning Monday, the latest phase of deploying the potentially life-saving and pandemic-ending drug. However, it also set off a new increase in demand for the still limited supply medicine. There are about 2.4 million adult Iowans.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would award Iowa $30 million to assist with vaccine distribution.

More:COVID-19 vaccine demand surges again as Iowa opens eligibility to all 16 and over

“We are doing everything we can to expand access to vaccinations,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky said in a statement announcing the grant. “Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic.”

More:COVID-19 vaccine eligibility opens Monday in Iowa to anyone 16 and older. Here’s what you need to know

Meanwhile, the number of positive tests in the state remain higher than they were in mid March, when a steady decline in cases started ticking up again. There were about 3,700 positive cases in the week before Monday, compared to about 3,100 positive cases in between March 13 and March 19. The 14-day positive test rate is 4.9%, while the seven-day positive test rate is 5.2%, according to Iowa Department of Public Health data.

Nick Coltrain is a politics and data reporter for the Register. Reach him at ncoltrain@registermedia.com or at 515-284-8361.