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Could Covid Vaccines Be Required For Air Travel? Fauci Wouldn’t Object

The nation’s top infectious disease expert says he would support a mandate requiring Covid-19 vaccines for air travel.

As the United States continues to grapple with a surge of Delta variant-driven Covid-19 cases, the nation’s top infectious disease expert has signaled his support for making a Covid-19 vaccine a prerequisite for airline travel. Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci recently revealed he would support requiring all airline passengers to be vaccinated against the virus before they step on a plane.

“I would support that,” Fauci said when asked his thoughts about mandating Covid-19 vaccines for air travel during an interview on theSkimm’s Skimm This podcast. “If you want to get on a plane and travel with other people ... you should be vaccinated.”

But just how likely is a Covid vaccine mandate for air travel really? While no U.S. airline has required passengers to show proof of vaccination to fly, some have required them of employees. Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and United have all instituted a Covid-19 vaccine mandate of some kind for their employees. In lieu of a blanket vaccine mandate, Delta airlines has said it will require all unvaccinated employees to take weekly Covid-19 tests and pay an additional $200 a month health insurance surcharge.

For now, however, it seems unlikely that U.S. airlines would support a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for air travelers. The U.S. Travel Association, a national nonprofit comprised of members from a number of different travel companies including airlines, quickly pushed back against Fauci’s endorsement of a mandate.

“U.S. Travel has long maintained that there should be no mandatory vaccination requirement for domestic travel,” Tori Emerson Barnes, the group’s executive vice president of public affairs and policy, said in a statement released Monday. “Such a policy would have an unfair negative impact on families with young children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine.”

Barnes argued the federal mask mandate, which requires passengers to wear face coverings when traveling on any form of public transportation through January 2022, already ensured the safety of air travel. “Proper tools are already in place to enable safe air travel for Americans,” Barnes said.

But a Covid vaccine mandate for air travel may not be completely out of the question. In fact, other countries have already implemented vaccine mandates for domestic travel. In Canada, anyone traveling domestically by plane, train, or cruise ship must be vaccinated against Covid-19. In France, all domestic air travelers must be vaccinated. Additionally, many European countries require proof of vaccination from incoming international travelers.

What’s more, the White House has said it’s not ready to take a travel vaccine mandate away as a possible means of curbing the spread of Covid. “We’re not taking any measures off the table,” Forbes reported White House Coronavirus Response Team Coordinator Jeff Zients said when asked about the possibility of mandating vaccines for travelers.