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US eyeing vaccine ‘passports’ for travel abroad, says DHS head

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas participates in a virtual conference Feb. 23, 2021. (Department of Homeland Security/Released)

The U.S. is taking a close look at vaccine “passports” for international travel, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday, after the White House has repeatedly dismissed the notion.

Mayorkas, speaking on ABC’s “Good Morning America” ahead of the Memorial Day long weekend, was asked about creating the document for flights into and out of the U.S.

“We’re taking a very close look at that,” he said. “One of our principles that has guided us throughout the pandemic is the value of diversity, equity and inclusion, and making sure that any passport we provide for vaccinations is accessible to all and that no one is disenfranchised, and so we’re taking a very close look at that. There’s an underlying point here, of course, which is: Everyone should get vaccinated.”

The White House has regularly dismissed any suggestion that it would create some federal document certifying vaccination status.

“We are not instituting vaccine passports from a federal level,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

An administration official said the U.S. effort that Mayorkas referred to is aimed at making sure U.S. travelers can meet any entry requirements set by other countries, including options to show vaccination status, but reiterated that there will be no U.S. vaccination database and no mandate for anyone to prove if they’ve been vaccinated.

U.S. health officials have lifted virtually all restrictions, including most mask mandates, for vaccinated people. That move left businesses, states and cities with a problem: There’s no way to prove who is vaccinated.

The European Union has moved to open up quarantine-free travel for tourists vaccinated with EU-approved drugs, including those used in the U.S., but the U.S. has yet to reciprocate.


© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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