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The U.S. government has no plans to require ‘vaccine passports’

April 6, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: The federal government wants to require Americans to present a health passport or vaccine certificate “on demand,” including for domestic travel. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The U.S. government has no plans to require so-called vaccine passports to travel domestically, or for any other purpose. While private businesses are considering vaccine passports for certain activities, Biden administration officials have said the federal government will not mandate vaccine passports. 

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THE FACTS: As more Americans are being vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19, the private sector is developing digital passes that would make it easier for travelers and others to show that they’ve been inoculated. 

A vaccine passport is documentation that shows a person has been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or recently tested negative. The information will be in the form of a scannable code that can be stored on a smartphone or printed out. 

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday the U.K. would be testing vaccine passports, and other countries such as Israel have already introduced such health certificates, the Biden administration has said the U.S. will not be requiring them.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the Biden administration is “not now nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential.” 

But posts circulating on social media are falsely implying that vaccine passports will be mandatory in the U.S., including for domestic travel. 

“President Biden and the Democrats want to force Americans to present a ‘vaccine passport’ upon demand, yet they oppose presenting an ID to cast a vote,” reads a tweet by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.

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A Facebook post claims: “So, now, I will need a Health Passport to travel IN America, but Illegals don’t need any kind of Passport to enter INTO America!”  

“This is false as of today there is no such requirement,” Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of airline relations for Internova Travel Group, told The Associated Press in an email. 

Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor and director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, told the AP in an email that such claims are “patently false.”  

“There are no plans in the US to introduce a vaccine passport for domestic travel,” Gostin said. “Neither the government nor the US airline industry have announced any plans for requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of interstate travel.”

Gostin explained that foreign carriers were discussing a voluntary COVID vaccine passport system, but it did not include U.S. carriers yet. 

In the U.S., only one state has rolled out a vaccine passport. New York introduced an app through a limited government partnership with a private company. People can show proof of vaccination or a negative test with an app to enter places like entertainment venues. 

Lawmakers in a handful of states are trying to ban vaccine passports. Pennsylvania lawmakers are drawing up legislation that would prohibit vaccine passports. Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also issued an executive order banning businesses from requiring customers to show proof they got the shot. 

“Unlike other parts of the world, the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of citizens,” said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, during a press briefing on March 29. Slavitt added that he considered vaccine passports to be a project for the private sector, not the government.

The Facebook post’s claim that people without legal status in the U.S. are allowed to enter without documentation is also misleading. Those trying to enter the U.S. must show proof they are an American citizen or documents showing they have permission to enter the country, otherwise they are placed in expedited removal proceedings and face deportation. The law also allows those without documents who have a credible fear of returning to their home country to enter and apply for asylum. 

During the pandemic, however, border officials are quickly expelling most people they encounter at the border, with the exception of children and some families. Borders between the U.S. and Canada and the U.S. and Mexico are both closed to nonessential travel, meaning even some visitors with valid visas are not allowed in.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536