Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday that there are no immediate plans for the county council to move forward with his proposal to implement a COVID-19 vaccine passport program.
“I do not have a hard timeline. This is in draft. We are still dealing with some other related issues, such as the state,” Elrich said in a response to a question from MarylandReporter.com at a virtual news conference. “We are trying to make sure that if we put it in front of them they are actually able to implement it. I do not want to put forward a policy and then discover that we are not going to be able to get the information that we need.”
Dr. Earl Stoddard, who leads the county’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, expanded upon Elrich’s answer.
“The state of Maryland controls much of the data through their ImmuNet system for all vaccine records in the state of Maryland. While we know at the county level through the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services who has been vaccinated, we do not have rights to the information that the state has. And so we have asked the Maryland Department of Health whether a system like a passport could access the database to verify someone’s vaccination status. Thus far they have not been willing to support efforts like that, which have been engaged both in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the state of Maryland.”
Stoddard added: “There are a number of counties that are interested in setting up platforms like that, even if they are not necessarily interested in requiring vaccine passports. They are looking to have systems that support businesses who want to implement their own passports so you can verify someone’s vaccination status.”
Stoddard said that language for the proposal is in the draft phase, but that it would not be prudent to move forward with a vote until more information is ascertained from the state about how the program might be able to work.
Earlier in the news conference, Elrich was asked by another media outlet whether the county’s vaccination metrics, which according to the CDC are the best in the state with more than 74% of eligible residents fully vaccinated-might negate the need for the implementation of a vaccine passport program.
The county executive emphasized that pass-through traffic in the county makes the program necessary.
“We have very fluid borders. A lot of our county residents work outside Montgomery County. A lot of people from outside Montgomery County work in Montgomery County. They come to the shops, the restaurants, the movie theaters. We know that this variant is more infectious. We know that we are having more breakthrough cases out of this variant than we did in other cases. I am trying my best to minimize the possibility of potential outbreaks in the county.”
Dr. James Bridgers Jr., who is the county’s deputy health officer, said progress is being made on the administration of booster shots for immunocompromised residents.
“We are vaccinating those individuals at home in that cohort.”
However, Bridgers cautioned that immunocompromised persons should consult their primary care providers before electing to get a booster shot.