US taking ‘very close look’ at vaccine passports for international travel

The Biden administration is taking “a very close look” at the possibility of vaccine passports for travel into and out of the United States, the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said on Friday.

The Transportation Security Administration, which safeguards the nation’s transportation systems, is housed under Mayorkas’s department.

Like so many other public health measures meant to mitigate Covid-19’s spread, vaccine passports have drawn support and ire.

Some welcome the fast pass to normalcy, sick of extended quarantines and tedious testing requirements. Others harbor unsubstantiated concerns that the certificates could chip away at their privacy. Still others worry about vaccine inequality, with the life-saving shots going disproportionately to residents of the world’s wealthiest nations.

Mayorkas told ABC that one of his guiding principles throughout the pandemic has been “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”.

“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 travelers to use mobile phone apps to prove they have been vaccinated, helping them avoid quarantine requirements at their destinations.

Groups involved with the passports say they are also considering alternatives for travelers who do not have access to smartphones, according to the Associated Press.

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