For some international flights from the U.S., all passengers must show proof of being fully vaccinated against coronavirus; it’s based on the rules of the country you’re visiting.
That’s not the case for U.S. domestic flights. You answer a few questions at the airport to assert you aren’t showing COVID symptoms and haven’t been exposed to anyone known to have the virus, and virtually anyone can fly. Pretty much everyone aged 2 and over has to wear a mask, but your vaccination status doesn’t matter.
Cases of the delta variant of COVID are out of control and although vaccine rates have picked up in the past couple of weeks, only about 58% of the U.S. population have had 1 dose and 50% are fully vaccinated (children under 12 are still not eligible for COVID inoculations).
Despite the best efforts of those who are favor of the shots, there’s a significant percent of the population eligible for the vaccine who still refuse to get one. Their reasons vary but unfortunately, it’s in the unvaccinated population where new variants take hold, potentially putting those who have been vaccinated at risk for a new variant that can outsmart the current vaccine.
Meanwhile, different entities have done what they can to ensure “their people” are vaccinated. A couple of states are using monetary rewards and lotteries to motivate their citizens to get their vaccines. Some workplaces have given their employees paid time off to get their shots, or have paid them a bonus when they show proof of getting vaccinated. Large companies such as Disney, Walmart and Tyson Food are requiring their employees to get their shots. Even federal workers are going to be required to be vaccinated or else comply with new rules on mandatory masking, weekly testing, distancing and more.
But this is a travel blog…let’s get back to the topic of travel.
Before the FAA stepped in to make face masks on planes a requirement, airlines had made their own rules about masks. So the obvious question is, in the interest of public health and vaccine motivation, could the same thing happen with COVID shots? Would airlines require their passengers to show proof they’ve been inoculated before being allowed to fly domestically?
Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian was on CNBC’s Squawk Box the other day and said that 73% of the airline’s staff is fully vaccinated and, “We’re continuing to encourage as much as we can amongst our own people and our customers to get vaccinated.”
But when it comes to requiring vaccines?
“It’s very difficult for us to come in and mandate a vaccine that isn’t even federally approved yet, the authorization hasn’t been final yet, so stay tuned,” said Bastian.
Hmmm… That almost sounds like requiring vaccines to fly COULD be a consideration, once the vaccines are federally approved.
And how close are we to federal approval? Pretty close, actually.
The New York Times reported on August 3rd that the FDA’s goal is to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine by early next month. And if you’re wondering how the world they could get that done, well, The Washington Post recently published an excellent post about questions people might have about that whole process.
Both newspapers suggest that the FDA is using an “an all hands-on-deck” strategy to accelerate “an already expedited effort” to grant full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as quickly as they possibly can (Pfizer and BioNTech submitted their request for full approval [it’s called a “biologics license application”] on May 7. Moderna began a rolling submission in June. Johnson & Johnson has said it will submit its application later this year).
Of those who refuse to get their COVID shots, many say they won’t because it’s not FDA approved. That approval could be their “shot in the arm,” so to speak. Requiring a COVID vaccine to get on a plane could be a motivator for others, as well (I know a few people who have said they wouldn’t get it unless it was required for flying).
But will it happen?
Feature Photo: Phila.gov
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary