From QAnon adherents to “Stop the Steal” founder Ali Alexander, far-right extremists are spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine passports reportedly being considered by the Biden administration.
Earlier this week, The Washington Post revealed that the Biden administration was working with private companies to develop a “standard way of handling credentials — often referred to as ‘vaccine passports’ — that would allow Americans to prove they have been vaccinated” against COVID-19. Other countries, including those within the European Union, also pledged to use vaccine passports or digital certificates to allow citizens to travel during the summer. Other initiatives include a World Health Organization-led global effort and an IBM devised digital pass that is now being tested in New York state.
While White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday there will be no federal mandate requiring every American to obtain a vaccination credential, it has not stopped far-right activists from spreading disinformation and anti-vaccine propaganda on social media.
“It is essential that Georgia citizens speak loudly and often to oppose Governor Brian ‘CCP’ Kemp’s efforts to mandate a COVID vaccine passport,” wrote Lin Wood, the pro-Trump attorney turned QAnon celebrity, Monday. “No bona fide medical evidence exists to justify this blatant violation of our constitutional rights.”
Wood’s appeal was amplified across various QAnon conspiracy theory channels on Telegram, with other adherents adding to the fearmongering: “They want to force [on] us a passport to go to the store while no passport is needed for illegals to come into our country,” wrote one QAnon adherent Tuesday while a second added that vaccine passports would be the “end of the free world in the West.”
Other more prominent far-right figures have also spoken out against the proposed vaccine passport, including controversial Reps. Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene, the latter of whom stated Tuesday on Twitter that the passport should be called “Biden’s Mark of the Beast” and insisted she would not comply with the proposed measure.
“Joe Biden is telling you to keep wearing masks, wants to force #VaccinePassports, and won’t allow America to fully reopen [because] of #COVID, but Biden and the Democrats have opened our border to the world and ALL diseases,” Greene stated in a follow-up tweet on Tuesday. “Now YOU have to pay for all the illegals and their COVID is ok.”
Other vocal opposition included Ali Alexander, the far-right organizer behind the so-called Stop the Steal movement that promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, who compared the vaccine passport to slavery.
“Nothing is more important than opposing vaccine passports and travel permission slips,” Alexander wrote on Telegram on March 17. “There’s no participating in a system that’ll make so obvious our own slavery. Rebel!”
Opposition to the vaccine passport is the latest example of how far-right extremists are migrating from the unfounded election fraud narrative to anti-vaccine campaigns in an attempt to undermine the Biden administration. According to The New York Times, “bashing of the safety and efficacy of vaccines is occurring in chatrooms frequented by all manner of right-wing groups including the Proud Boys; the Boogaloo movement, a loose affiliation known for wanting to spark a second Civil War; and various paramilitary organizations.”
The far-right narrative that vaccinations are tools of excessive government control has also spread through QAnon channels, many of which are rallying behind politicians who oppose vaccine mandates. These include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who announced Monday during a news conference that he planned to ban vaccine passports in his state.
“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society,” DeSantis said during the news conference. “You want to go to a movie theater—should you have to show that? No. You want to go to a game—should you have to show that? No. You want to go to a theme park? No. We’re not supportive of that.”
The QAnon community has since celebrated DeSantis’ comments, with one adherent stating that the governor was “ruining the power grab Democrats are trying to keep going with the virus. He’s a hero.”