WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said the world health agency does not back the use of these passports — proof that one has been vaccinated against COVID-19 — because it is not yet known if those who have been vaccinated against the virus can still transmit it. She cited equity concerns as another reason the WHO does not endorse the use of them at this time.
"We as WHO are saying at this stage we would not like to see the vaccination passport as a requirement for entry or exit because we are not certain at this stage that the vaccine prevents transmission," Harris said during a United Nations news briefing, per Reuters.
"There are all those other questions, apart from the question of discrimination against the people who are not able to have the vaccine for one reason or another," she added.
The news comes after the nation’s top infectious disease expert also spoke to vaccine passports, saying that the federal government won’t be mandating them for travelers or businesses after the pandemic is over.
"I doubt that the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept," Dr. Anthony Fauci, who also serves as President Biden's chief medical adviser, told the Politico Dispatch podcast on Monday.
"They may be involved in making sure things are done fairly and equitably, but I doubt if the federal government is going to be the leading element of that," he added.
Some argue that mandating vaccine passports could speed the re-opening of international travel. But the issue of vaccine passports is complicated and has been hotly debated around the world, with questions largely around how much governments, employers and venues have a right to know about a person’s vaccination status.
In the U.S., the issue has largely become partisan, with Republican lawmakers mostly against the concept. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for instance, issued an executive order on Friday banning the use of vaccine passports in the state, while Democratic New York became the first state to roll out a digital vaccine passport when it recently launched the so-called "Excelsior Pass."
Still, some private businesses and organizations may look at developing ways to confirm that someone is vaccinated. Fauci also spoke to this during his appearance on the Politico Dispatch podcast, noting that businesses or schools may require them to enter their buildings.
"I'm not saying that they should or that they would, but I'm saying you could foresee how an independent entity might say, 'well, we can't be dealing with you unless we know you're vaccinated,' but it's not going to be mandated from the federal government," he said.