Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the federal government and his agency will evaluate whether to use a “vaccine passport”-type system for travelers coming into and out of the United States.
The DHS is the agency that oversees the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which screens passengers at all U.S. airports.
In an interview with ABC News on Friday, Mayorkas said that the United States is “taking a very close look” about the possibility of requiring vaccine passports for international travel.
“We’re taking a very close look at that, 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,” Mayorkas said, referring to restrictions being implemented during the pandemic.
The secretary said that such a system—which has been flagged by civil liberties groups as a potential invasion of privacy—is designed to get people vaccinated against COVID-19.
“There’s an underlying point here, of course, which is everyone should get vaccinated,” Mayorkas said.
The European Union, some Asian governments, and the airline industry are scrambling to develop COVID-19 vaccine passports to help restart international travel. Those governments working on systems that would allow travelers to use mobile phone apps to prove they’ve been vaccinated, helping them avoid quarantine requirements at their destinations.
Mayorkas’ comments may run counter to what White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier this month when she reiterated that the Biden administration still does not support any federal vaccine passport-type systems.
“It has not changed our view that the federal government will not be playing that role,” Psaki said in response to a question from reporters earlier this month. “The private sector may, and it may prompt the private sector moving forward on actions, which is where we think it is appropriately situated.”
And in March, Psaki said that there “currently an interagency process that is looking at many of the questions around vaccine verification” and added that a “determination or development of vaccine passport or whatever you want to call it will be driven by the private sector” rather than the federal government.
Vaccine passport-type systems have become a point of controversy, with several Republican-led states banning state and local governments from implementing them. Some states have also moved to prevent private businesses from using passport systems as well.
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed an executive order that barred vaccine passports, saying that vaccines are not “required by law” and that “vaccination records are private health information” that shouldn’t be shared by a mandate. He has also argued that those systems would separate individuals into “un-vaccinated” and “vaccinated” classes.
The Epoch Times has contacted the White House for comment.