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Biden signs G20 declaration to ‘build on success’ of vaccine passports

President Joe Biden talks to staff at the National Institutes of Health on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 in Bethesda, Maryland. Biden will speak at the JFK Library on his pet project, reducing the cases of cancer by half in the next 25 years. (Oliver Contreras/Pool/Abaca Press/TNS)
November 18, 2022

President Joe Biden and 19 top world leaders recently signed off on a call to “build on the success” of “digital COVID-19 certificates.” The European Union and many others have referred to such certificates as “vaccine passports.”

World leaders at the annual G20 summit, which ended Nov. 16, signed a 52-point declaration detailing their shared values and how they’ll approach the biggest international challenges. Expansion of vaccine passport programs comes up in the 23rd point.

“We support continued international dialogue and collaboration on the establishment of trusted global digital health networks as part of the efforts to strengthen prevention and response to future pandemics, that should capitalize and build on the success of the existing standards and digital COVID-19 certificates,” the declaration reads in part.

Rumors spread in 2021 that vaccine passports would become part of American life amid President Joe Biden’s drive to cover as many Americans as possible with vaccine mandates. Passports have been touted as a way to incentivize vaccination, but also criticized as another tool for government control and surveillance.

The European Union in 2021 implemented a digital vaccine passport for traveling between member countries. Since then, all but four EU countries have lifted COVID-19 vaccine passport requirements, according to the EU’s travel permit portal.

Some U.S. cities, including New York City, set up vaccine passports, but the Biden administration stopped short of a national system.

“Let me be clear that the government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential,”  the leader of the White House COVID-19 Response Team, Jeff Zients, said in April 2021. “There’ll be no federal vaccination database, no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”

However, the U.S. has required COVID-19 vaccines for any non-citizen or non-immigrant entering the country since October 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The declaration signed by G20 leaders also praised the International Health Regulations, a set of international public health rules binding virtually every country on Earth that G20 leaders said “facilitate seamless international travel.”

Part of the IHR is the so-called “yellow card” that countries can choose to require proving vaccination against diseases such as yellow fever and polio. Yellow-card documentation of the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet required by any country, according to the CDC.