Vaccine passports would disproportionately discriminate against black and Hispanic Minnesotans

The ‘surge’ in cases of the ‘Delta Variant’ of COVID-19 is prompting a clamor for the return of so-called ‘Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions’ (NPIs) — mask mandates, shutdowns and the like — to curb its spread.

One of these NPIs is the introduction of so-called ‘vaccine passports,’ which you will be required to show to prove you have been vaccinated before you are allowed to enter a particular premises. A number of Twin Cities venues have already imposed the requirement that proof of vaccination be shown to permit entry, but there are calls for city and state officials to follow the lead of New York’s Mayor Bill De Blasio and make them legal requirements for all.

Such a measure in our state would disproportionately impact Minnesota’s black and Hispanic populations. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation (seen in Figure 1) shows that, as of August 2, 56 percent of white Minnesotans have been vaccinated, compared to just 43 percent of black and 44 percent of Hispanic Minnesotans (63 percent of Asian Minnesotans have been vaccinated). Vaccine passports will throw up greater barriers for black and Hispanic Minnesotans than for their white and Asian neighbors.

Figure 1: Percent of Total Population that has Received a COVID-19 Vaccine Dose by Race/Ethnicity, Minnesota, August 2, 2021

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Of course, vaccine passports are not intended to make it harder for blacks or Hispanics to access certain spaces or participate in certain activities, but, given the disparities in vaccination rates, that will undoubtedly be their impact. And, as we are told nowadays, it is impact that matters in identifying racism, not intent. In her bestselling book White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo argues that “emphasizing intentions over impact” actually “privileges the intentions of the aggressor over the impact of their behavior on the target.” 

Thankfully, Gov. Tim Walz has already ruled out a statewide vaccine passport, but local authorities should also shun these illiberal measures. Private businesses ought, in my view, be able to impose these restrictions if they wish and if you don’t like them you can go someplace else. Indeed, it is both intriguing and gratifying to see so many on the left finally embrace that view. The unforeseen consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic keep on coming.