DHS Backpedals After Mayorkas Says 'We're Taking a Very Close Look' at Vaccine Passports

Posted: May 28, 2021 4:30 PM
DHS Backpedals After Mayorkas Says 'We're Taking a Very Close Look' at Vaccine Passports

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

Another day, another COVID-related messaging blunder from the Biden administration after the Department of Homeland Security had to issue a statement walking back statements by its Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, claiming DHS is "taking a very close look" at vaccine passports. 

When asked during a Friday interview on Good Morning America about summer travel and whether or not the United States may require vaccine passports for international travel in or out of the country, Mayorkas didn't provide specifics but said "we're taking a very close look at that," adding some intersectional buzzwords for extra pizazz.  

"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, and so we're taking a very close look at that," he added before urging every American to get vaccinated. 

Either Mayorkas spilled the beans about plans for vaccine passports a little too early or he just flubbed on his answer because shortly after the interview, his agency released a statement saying that it has no plans for such a credential, echoing what the White House has said.

According to a report from Bloomberg:

Liza Acevedo, a spokesperson for the department, said later that Mayorkas was referring to work already underway to make sure “all U.S. travelers will be able to easily meet any anticipated foreign country entry requirements.”

There will be no federal vaccination database or a federal requirement for Americans to prove they’ve been vaccinated, Acevedo said.

The White House has regularly dismissed any suggestion that the government would create a federal document certifying vaccination status. “We are not instituting vaccine passports from a federal level,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

There is quite a disconnect between what Mayorkas said on GMA and what his agency later clarified—and even within the statement from DHS. 

If, as Mayorkas said, a vaccine passport is being considered for international travel to or from the United States, the federal government would need some sort of database to know who's been vaccinated. Yet the DHS spox said there won't be any federal vaccination database. 

And what will happen if one of the "anticipated foreign country entry requirements" they're working to meet is a vaccine passport?

The current administration has not done well in clearly delivering guidance related to the Wuhan coronavirus, and it looks like Biden and his cabinet intend to keep following their clear-as-mud communications playbook.