The current administration is now considering and is taking “a very close look” at the possibility of vaccine passports for travel into and out of the United States, according to Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary on Friday.
“We’re taking a very close look at [requiring vaccine passports to travel internationally],” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday.
“One of the principles that have guided us throughout this pandemic is the value of diversity, equity and inclusion and making sure that any passport that we provide for vaccinations is accessible to all and that no one is disenfranchised.”
Vaccine passports being developed by the European Union and other countries and private groups are so far digitally-based, raising concerns that they could potentially disenfranchise groups like those who don’t have smartphones.
The U.S. does not have any requirements for international travellers to be vaccinated at the moment but does require those travelling into the U.S. to test negative for Covid-19.
The Biden administration has already said it will not develop a federal vaccine passport that Americans would be forced to show within the U.S., such as for certain businesses or domestic travel.
In a statement to Forbes, a Homeland Security spokesperson said Mayorkas was referring to a passport “ensuring that all U.S. travellers will be able to easily meet any anticipated foreign country entry requirements,” and that the U.S. will not have any centralized vaccination database or credential.
“Everyone should get vaccinated,” he added.
In the US, as states have reopened their economies, some – such as New York and California – have turned to verification of vaccination as a viable way to safely allow large gatherings and social events. Others, including Florida and Texas, have gone so far as to ban the certificates.
In the past, the Biden administration has said it does not intend to launch a nationwide vaccine passport and denied plans for a federal vaccination mandate.
“The government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,” the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said last month.
Already, the European Union, some Asian governments and the airline industry are scrambling to develop Covid-19 vaccine passports. They are working on systems that would allow travellers to use mobile phone apps to prove they have been vaccinated, helping them avoid quarantine requirements at their destinations.
“We’ve always said we’re looking at how we can ensure Americans travelling abroad have a quick and easy way to enter other countries,” a DHS spokesperson told Forbes in an email clarifying Mayorkas’ interview.
“There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
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