Pilots and air traffic controllers can now take the Pfizer vaccine, FAA says

Dec 12, 2020

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On Friday evening, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

A massive coordination effort is underway between the local and federal government, hospitals, pharmacy chains and logistics companies — including airlines — as the vaccine is readied for use by early next week.

With the Pfizer vaccine now available for the U.S. public as early as Monday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has also taken the extraordinary step to provide vaccination authorization and guidelines for pilots and air traffic controllers.

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The Pfizer vaccine being loaded into the cargo hold of a United aircraft. (Photo courtesy of United)

The FAA has approved aviation professionals with medical certifications or medical clearances to be vaccinated. However, these individuals must also observe a period of 48 hours following administration of the vaccine before being permitted to fly or perform air traffic control duties.

With two doses of the vaccine required 21 days apart, the 48-hour waiting period applies to each dose. Of note, the 48-hour waiting period isn’t new. In fact, the administration of other vaccines, including those for tuberculosis and typhoid requires the same process.

The FAA has said that it doesn’t anticipate taking additional measures to ensure safety after the initial window for side effects closes. And while these vaccine guidelines only pertain to the Pfizer version, the FAA plans to evaluate vaccines from other manufacturers as they receive FDA authorization in the coming weeks and months.

Earlier this month, Pfizer already tapped United Airlines to help position the vaccine around the world. In fact, United has a distinct title as the first commercial airline to fly the now-FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine. On behalf of Pfizer, the airline operated five cargo-only flights in early December delivering COVID-19 vaccines from Brussels to Chicago. 

Now, Pfizer’s precious cargo — at minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit — will start rolling out of plants in Michigan and Wisconsin on Sunday to hospitals nationwide. 

Featured photo courtesy of United.

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