Dr. Fauci clarifies that travelers shouldn’t expect a domestic flight vaccine mandate

Dec 28, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

Late Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the President, clarified statements he made earlier in the day that a vaccine requirement for passengers on domestic flights should be considered as COVID-19 cases continue to surge around the country.

“I don’t think people should expect that we’re going to have a requirement in domestic flights for people to be vaccinated,” Fauci told CNN.

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In an interview with MSNBC Monday morning, Fauci had previously said it would be “reasonable to consider” the requirement.

“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci said. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”

Notably, however, Fauci did not cite any inherent danger linked to airline travel but instead suggested that such a requirement could be used to encourage holdouts to get vaccinated.

The comments represented a break from past commentary from the Biden administration, which has previously dismissed the idea of a domestic travel vaccine requirement.

The Associated Press reported that officials said that the president’s science advisers had made no formal recommendation and that a vaccine mandate on domestic fights could “trigger a host of logistical and legal concerns.” So, it isn’t surprising to see Fauci clarify that domestic travelers shouldn’t expect a vaccine mandate for domestic travel.

The U.S. currently requires most foreign travelers to the country to be vaccinated. However, citizens and permanent residents can enter by simply testing negative for the virus, regardless of vaccination status.

Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested to reporters that the Biden administration had not implemented such a requirement because “we know that masking can be, is, very effective on airplanes,” the AP reported.

“We also know that putting in place that additional restriction might delay flights, might have additional implications,” Psaki 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.”

Employees at major U.S. airlines have largely been required to be vaccinated under a Biden administration executive order.

Read more: Here’s what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled

Fauci’s comments came as U.S. airlines struggled to recover from a Christmas weekend of flight cancellations caused by a surge in COVID-19 cases among flight crews, which have been largely driven by the spread of the omicron variant.

Additional reporting by Ashley Kosciolek.

Featured photo by Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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