The Minnesota Senate took action Friday, May 15 to protect medical privacy rights from COVID-19 vaccine passports and contact tracing.

The bill prohibits state and local units of government from mandating a person disclose their personal health status. The bill is in response to efforts by governments to obtain and track citizens’ private health information during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, who supported the bill.

“I have always been committed to standing up for the individual Constitutional privacy rights of Minnesotans,” Westrom said in a news release. “Vaccine passports are a danger to our medical privacy rights and this bill helps curtail those dangers. Government should not coerce its citizens into sharing their personal health information. There is more work that needs to be done to protect Minnesotans’ medical privacy rights, but I am glad we were able to take this positive step in the right direction.”

Under the legislation, no person must be required to possess, wear, or display any indicator that they received a positive or negative test result or possesses the antibodies for a communicable disease. Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Health would be prohibited from forcing anyone to participate in contact tracing or digital contact tracing and Minnesotans couldn't be compelled to get a vaccine or get a test for a disease.

The data shows there are significant disparities in vaccination rates among Minnesotans. Westrom said 55% of white Minnesotans over the age of 15 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while only 39% of Latino and 37% of black Minnesotans have.

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If vaccine passports become required by the state or localities, then Minnesotans in these unvaccinated groups could find themselves excluded while other Minnesotans would be permitted in vaccine passport restricted areas, Westrom said.

Westrom offered an amendment on the Senate floor to strengthen the bill to protect Minnesotans’ privacy rights from vaccine passports at most businesses and it narrowly failed on a voice vote.

The bill now awaits action by the DFL-controlled House of Representatives.