Dr. Scott Gottlieb: Americans Should Have Access to Vaccine Passports

Dr. Scott Gottlieb: Americans Should Have Access to Vaccine Passports Dr. Scott Gottlieb: Americans Should Have Access to Vaccine Passports FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb speaks about teen vaping during a discussion about overcoming obstacles, at the Newseum on March 6, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By Brian Freeman | Monday, 12 April 2021 02:18 PM

It would be helpful in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic in the future for Americans to have digital access to their COVID-19 vaccination status, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday.

Gottlieb, who was FDA chief from 2017-19 in the Trump administration, downplayed privacy concerns that are at the center of opposition to verification requirements.

"The whole discussion around vaccine passports has gotten swept up in a lot of concerns around whether or not it’s going to be used to limit people’s access to things that they would otherwise do," said Gottlieb, a board member of Pfizer, which makes one of the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States. "The use case for this information is likely to be enabling access to things that are otherwise going to be restricted."

As an example, Gottlieb cited visitations at nursing homes or hospitals in the fall, when he said he expects there will be another increase in coronavirus cases.

He pointed out that this past winter "nursing homes banned visitors. Hospitals banned visitors. You could see a situation where those institutions might allow people to visit if they can demonstrate they’ve been vaccinated."

Gottlieb added that "in certain limited circumstances," he anticipates people needing to demonstrate they have been immunized against coronavirus. "So, I think people need to think about this differently," he said. "Right now, as consumers, we don't own this information, and we should."

Information on administered COVID-19 vaccines is being entered into the same system used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to document pediatric vaccinations, Gottlieb said.

"The problem with the system is it was never designed really to be accessible to consumers, so consumers really have no way right now to get the information to prove they've been vaccinated," he said.

Gottlieb said that paper cards from the CDC that people are currently getting when receiving their Covid shots are unlikely to be universally honored.

"Those are available on eBay right now … so people aren't going to accept the cards as proof of vaccination," Gottlieb said, adding that is why digital documentation of Covid vaccine status should be available to Americans and "how they choose to use it is up to them."

The debate around vaccine passports has become increasingly controversial in the U.S., with some critics citing concerns about protecting civil liberties.

For example, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., has signed an executive order that prevents businesses from requiring a person to show that they have received a COVID-19 vaccine as a prerequisite for service.

The Biden administration has ruled out the federal government issuing vaccine passports, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki stating that "there will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential."