“Anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome,” Dr. Anthony Fauci says when asked by @jonkarl about potential vaccine requirements for domestic air travel. https://t.co/UPSYdyW4BU pic.twitter.com/Uetl9DaBO7
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 27, 2021
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Dear Commons Community,
Dr. Anthony Fauci said a coronavirus vaccine requirement for domestic air travel should be “seriously” considered as the omicron variant spreads across the globe.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” yesterday, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases argued that making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for flights within the United States would encourage more people to receive a vaccine, pointing to similar requirements to attend universities or work at certain companies\
“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” he said. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”
The U.S. currently requires most international travelers coming into the country to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but has no such rules for travel within the U.S.
Fauci stopped short of saying he’d publicly recommend the change to President Joe Biden, who earlier this month said he wasn’t yet planning to implement the policy.
Fauci also addressed the issue of a vaccine mandate during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” (see video above) on Sunday, similarly arguing that the main goal of the policy would be incentivizing vaccination and pressing that it is crucial for individuals to still wear masks on planes despite the advanced filtration systems on most aircraft.
Fauci’s remarks come as the omicron variant spreads rapidly across the U.S., accounting for the vast majority of new coronavirus infections in the country.
“It has an extraordinary capability of transmitting very efficiently from person to person,” Fauci said on MSNBC of the variant, urging people to take precautions and get their booster vaccination doses if they haven’t yet.
“It’s not something to be taken lightly,” he said.
The U.S. currently mandates that most foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, though citizens and permanent residents only need to show proof of a negative test taken within a day of boarding. Federal rules don’t require people travelling by air within the U.S. to show a negative test. Hawaii requires travelers to test or show proof of vaccination to avoid a mandatory quarantine.
Biden did not respond to questions on whether he was considering implementing a domestic air travel vaccination requirement, but he told reporters the subject was discussed on a call with the nation’s governors Monday morning.
“They asked Dr. Fauci some more questions about everything from whether or not he thought he was going to move to test at home — I mean, on air flights and that kind of thing,” Biden said of the call before departing the White House for his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
During the virtual meeting with governors, Biden pledged the full support of the federal government to states facing surges in COVID-19 cases from the more-transmissible omicron variant and a run on at-home tests that dominated headlines over the holiday season.
“My message is: If you need something, say something, and we’re going to have your back any way we can,” Biden said. He acknowledged long lines and chaotic scenes as Americans sought out testing amid the case surge and as they looked to safely gather with family and friends over the holiday.
“Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do,” he said. He referenced his administration’s plan to make 500 million rapid tests available to Americans beginning next month through an as-yet-to-be-developed website.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the National Governors Association chairman, raised concerns Biden’s plan could get in the way of state efforts to boost supply of tests.
“That dries up the supply chain for what we might offer as governors,” he said, saying the lack of supply “has become a real challenge.”
Biden assured Hutchinson that the federal effort won’t interfere with state actions. “This gets solved at the state level,” he said.
A White House official said the new tests would come from new manufacturing capacity and wouldn’t interfere with existing supply chains.
Earlier this year the White House explored a domestic vaccination requirement for flights, or one requiring either vaccination or proof of negative test. But officials have not been eager to mandate vaccination for domestic air travel because they expected it to face immediate legal challenges, mitigating its potential effectiveness as a tool to drive up vaccinations.
Pressed last week on why Biden had not mandated vaccinations for domestic air travel, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC that “we know that masking can be, is, very effective on airplanes.”
“We also know that putting in place that additional restriction might delay flights, might have additional implications,” she added. “We would do it, though, if the health impact was overwhelming. So we rely always on the advice of our health and medical experts. That isn’t a step at this point that they had determined we need to take.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show more than 241 million Americans, about 77% of the eligible population age 5 and over, have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. Officials believe, though, that there is some overcount in the figures due to record-keeping errors in the administration of booster shots.
Since the summer, the Biden administration has embraced various vaccination requirements as a way to get unvaccinated Americans to roll up their sleeves. It has instituted requirements that federal workers, federal contractors and those who work in health care get their shots, and that employers with 100 or more employees institute vaccination-or-testing requirements for their workers.
Those vaccination requirements have been mired in legal wrangling, with the Supreme Court set to hear arguments Jan. 7 in cases seeking to overturn them.
Tough medicine but maybe necessary!