Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday that the Biden administration is taking “a close look” at requiring Americans to have a COVID-19 vaccine passport for international travel.
But hours later his spokesman walked back the comments, saying in a statement there will be “no federal mandate” regarding vaccination passports.
The confusion began when Mayorkas was asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” if the federal government will make travelers show proof of inoculation before leaving the US or returning to the country this summer.
“We’re taking a very close look at that,” said Mayorkas, who also oversees the Transportation Security Administration.
“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 said. “And so we’re taking a very close look.”
His comments sparked confusion, prompting a DHS spokesman to clarify hours later that “there will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
“We’ve always said we’re looking at how we can ensure Americans traveling abroad have a quick and easy way to enter other countries. That’s what the Secretary was referring to; ensuring that all U.S. travelers will be able to easily meet any anticipated foreign country entry requirements,” the spokesman said.
White House Deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later told reporters that the administration hasn’t changed its stance on vaccine passports.
“The U.S. government recognizes that other countries have or may have foreign-entry requirements. We will be monitoring these and helping all U.S. travelers meet those, but we will not be — there will be no federal mandate requiring anyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” Jean-Pierre said. “But there will be no federal mandate requiring anyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.”
Mayorkas’ statement came as more than 2.5 million Americans geared up to fly on Memorial Day weekend — and after the White House previously said it won’t implement a proof-of-vaccination tracking system.
“The federal government will not be playing that role,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week. “The private sector may, and it may prompt the private sector moving forward on actions, which is where we think it is appropriately situated.”
Meanwhile, the European Union is developing coronavirus vaccine passports that are accessible via smartphone apps to kickstart international travel.
Anyone who leaves the US must currently have a negative COVID-19 test before returning to the country.