White House won’t require vaccine passports for travel

Mar 29, 2021

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The Biden Administration is throwing cold water on the idea of a federal program for vaccine passports. On Monday, March 29 both the acting head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the White House said there would be no federal mandate for vaccine passports. They also said there were no plans for a vaccine database.

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Several countries and some private companies have already begun experimenting with so-called vaccine passports or immunity passports. The idea is that you carry some kind of digital proof that you’ve been vaccinated to cross borders or even to get into theaters or concerts. The vaccination cards that many Americans are already holding offer some version of this, but the idea of a digital card has taken hold in the popular imagination.

CDC Vaccination Record Card. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Gu)

Related: CDC pleads with Americans to ‘limit travel’ 

The federal government, however, doesn’t seem too keen on wading into the controversy over vaccine passports.

Andy Slavitt, acting director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said during a White House COVID-19 briefing said, “the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of — of citizens. We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do.”

Related: 3 things to know about your vaccination card

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed that in a briefing Monday at the White House:

“Ours will more be focused on guidelines that can be used as a basis. There are a couple key principles that we are working from: one is that there will be no centralized, universal federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential; second, we want to encourage an open marketplace with a variety of private sector companies and nonprofit coalitions developing solutions; and third, we want to drive the market toward meeting public interest goals.”

Slavitt said, “What’s important to us, and we’re leading an interagency process right now to go through these details, are that some important criteria be met with these credentials.”

Related: Your guide to digital passports

It comes the same day that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s taking executive action against vaccine passports. The Republican governor said:

“It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine, just simply to participate in normal society,”

It’s unclear what DeSantis can do to restrict private companies or countries for that matter from developing or using vaccine passports.

Featured image by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.

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