Law blocks Utah government from requiring COVID-19 vaccines

April 6, 2021 GMT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A new law blocks Utah’s government from requiring people to get COVID-19 vaccines, but companies can use so-called vaccine passports to determine who has been inoculated.

The state Legislature passed the measure blocking vaccine requirements, and Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed it last month, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.

The passports are designed to allow people who have been vaccinated to travel, shop, dine in restaurants and attend sporting events with fewer restrictions. Many of the passports being developed are smartphone apps with a code that will verify vaccination, The Tribune reported.

The Washington Post reported that at least 17 companies are working to develop the passports. Sporting venues in New York will begin using a digital pass this week. Las Vegas casinos are also determining how to deploy the passports for guests.

“If we’re talking pure policy, I don’t think we should have vaccine passports or mask mandates now that people are being protected against the virus,” said Republican Utah Rep. Robert Spendlove, who sponsored the bill preventing vaccine requirements.

Spendlove said now that vaccines are more widely available, he doesn’t see the need for vaccine passports but that he won’t try to push restrictions on their use for businesses.

The law also blocks state colleges and universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for students and employees. That means the University of Utah, Utah State University and other public institutions cannot use vaccine passports, but Brigham Young University, which is private institution, can.

“That’s a concern I shared with a lot of people in the Legislature. We didn’t want to use the power of the government to compel people to do something,” Spendlove said. “I’m not anti-vaccination and am encouraging everyone to get the vaccine. But I don’t want the government telling someone they have to.”

The governor’s office said Cox agrees with U.S. Sen. Mike Lee’s stance on the issue. Lee told The Tribune last week that he was not opposed to businesses requiring proof of vaccination but did not think it was a step the government should take.