Last week, the Biden administration ordered broad vaccination warrants for federal workers and companies with more than 100 employees, but the government did not extend those warrants to air travelers.
Yet such a requirement for domestic air travel within the United States could still be in the cards. “We are not taking any action on the table,” Jeff Zients, coordinator of the White House coronavirus response team, told reporters when asked about travelers’ warrants at a press briefing.
Dr Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the White House, recently expressed support for a Covid-19 vaccination mandate for air travel. “I would argue that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people, you should be vaccinated,” he said in an interview for an upcoming episode of Skimm’s Skimm This podcast.
Last month, Canada issued a vaccination warrant for all domestic air, train and cruise ship travel. But while some U.S. airlines have issued vaccination warrants for their employees, airline executives have consistently opposed the introduction of additional friction such as mandatory pre-flight testing for passengers. They also argued that the mask’s current mandate on flights should be allowed to end.
Still, it is questionable whether airline executives read tea leaves correctly. Public support for a vaccination mandate for airline passengers is growing, according to a recent Gallup poll. More than six in 10 Americans (61%) now support the requirement for full proof of vaccination before boarding a plane – up from 57% in April 2021.
“I think we’ve seen this kind of action from a lot of industries who are concerned that mandates will hurt their business in the long run,” says Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown School of Public Health. He recalls the decline of the restaurant industry when enforcing smoking bans. “But all the evidence suggests that when you ban smoking inside restaurants and bars, the number of people who quit going to bars and restaurants was low,” says Dr Jha. “And that was actually more than made up for by the people who started going to restaurants and bars, because it became a more enjoyable and safer experience.”
In other words, airline executives should consider the possibility that a vaccine mandate may actually be a boost to the industry. “Personally, I think this is the argument that needs to be made, and I think it’s the right argument,” says Dr Jha. “I understand that many Americans get on the plane, but there are so many Americans who have chosen not to fly because they are not convinced it is safe. And if there were vaccination warrants, along with masking and other measures, it would create a level of safety that would attract a lot more consumers and I think that would more than compensate the people who chose not to. to travel. So that would be the argument.
If given a choice between mandatory pre-flight testing or mandatory vaccinations, the airline industry would likely go with the former. Interestingly, Delta Air Lines just published the results of a study it was conducted with the Mayo Clinic which demonstrated that Covid-19 molecular testing within 72 hours of departing an international flight reduces the risk of infection on board.
But a vaccine warrant would be preferable to a testing warrant for one simple reason. “Because the tests are more elusive,” says Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“I mean, you get a test within a certain amount of time. But then there will be a period of time between when you take the test and when you get on the plane, ”says Dr Offit. “So wouldn’t it make much more sense to have a vaccination mandate, which will give you a good chance of protecting yourself against this risk of serious illness?” “
Americans have worried much more about Covid-19 in recent months, which is not good news for airlines. Fears of contracting the coronavirus are at their highest since January, with 41% of Americans now extremely or very worried that they or a family member is infected – about double the percentage who worried in June , according to a recent survey by the The Bharat Express News and NORC at the University of Chicago.
For some health experts, a vaccination warrant is a logical step in a country where vaccine warrants are already commonplace in all U.S. states, especially if it were to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated.
“There is no good reason not to get the vaccine,” says Dr Offit. “There are just a lot of bad reasons not to get the vaccine. “