Despite the Biden administration’s repeated assurances that it will not impose a vaccine passport, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday the United States is “looking very closely” at requiring proof of a COVID-19 shot for international travelers.
Majorkas was asked in an interview with “Good Morning America” whether or not vaccine passports might be implemented for people entering or exiting the country.
“You know, one of our principles that has 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,’ he replied.
“And so we’re taking a very close look at that.”
Currently, U.S. citizens must obtain a negative COVID-19 test to reenter the country after a trip abroad. Non-citizens are allowed to travel to the United States, with exception of citizens of the 26 countries in the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, China, Iran, South Africa and India.
Florida’s Ron DeSantis is among the Republican governors who have signed legislation banning private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination to customers.
Majorkas said “everyone should get vaccinated.”
“We’ve got vaccination centers everywhere, no more than a few miles from everyone’s home, and it’s so important to get that vaccine – make one safe, make one’s loved ones and friends safe around you,” he said.
But Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Friday that while the COVID vaccines have “given us a lot of freedom, there is “a real potential for government overreach.”
“I don’t believe the government should force anyone to get the vaccine,’ he wrote on Twitter.
The European Union announced in April it will reopen its borders to American tourists this summer, but visitors will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Further, among the G7 nations, of which the U.S. is a member, there is “an ongoing conversation about how that might look and how we might be able to have some sort of standardized approach to this.”
In January, however, the World Health Organization declared opposition to vaccine passports.
The WHO said that “at the present time, do not introduce requirements of proof of vaccination or immunity for international travel as a condition of entry, as there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission and limited availability of vaccines.”
Last August, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top White House coronavirus adviser, said he would not support requiring the COVID-19 vaccine nationwide.
“We don’t want to be mandating from the federal government to the general population. It would be unenforceable and not appropriate,” he said.
The Biden administration has declared on record it has no plans for a national vaccine passport or certificate of vaccination.
But it has been cooperating with corporations that have indicated they plan to require them, working on a way to standardize a vaccine ID process, the Washington Post reported in April.
The paper said the administration and private companies, “from cruise lines to sports teams,” could require the passports, which could amount to an app on a smartphone with a scannable code similar to an airline boarding pass.
In addition New York state is issuing Excelsior Passes to residents who have been vaccinated or tested negative for COVID, allowing admittance to certain venues and events.
The European Union is developing what it calls a digital green certificate allowing citizens who have been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID to travel freely among the 27 member nations and avoid quarantine. Israel requires fully immunized residents to furnish a paper or digital “Green Pass” to access gyms, theaters, hotels and other public-access places.
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