Fauci: US should establish a vaccine mandate for US airline travel

WASHINGTON (AP), -- Dr. Anthony Fauci is the U.S.'s top infectious disease expert. He suggested that the country consider a mandatory vaccination requirement for domestic flights. This signaled a possible embrace of an idea that the Biden administration had previously rejected, due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Fauci: US should establish a vaccine mandate for US airline travel

Fauci is President Joe Biden’s chief science advisor on pandemic response. He stated that such a mandate could increase the nation’s lagging vaccination rates as well as confer greater protection on flights. Federal regulations require everyone over 2 years old to wear a mask.

Fauci said Monday that vaccination is a requirement and it creates an incentive for more people to be vaccinated. Fauci spoke to MSNBC on Monday. "If you're looking to do the same with domestic flights, that's something I strongly recommend."

Biden's administration has so far refused to impose a vaccination requirement on domestic flights. Two officials claimed that Biden's science advisors have not yet made a formal recommendation to the president for such a requirement.

Officials spoke under anonymity because they were unable to speak publicly about internal discussions. They said that a mandate for vaccines on planes could cause a variety of logistical or legal problems.

The United States requires that all foreign nationals who travel to the U.S. must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus. However, citizens and permanent residents are only required to provide proof of a negative test within one day of arrival.

Federal regulations don't require travelers flying within the United States to submit to a negative test. To avoid mandatory quarantine, Hawaii requires that travelers show proof of vaccination or test positive.

Biden didn't respond to questions about whether he is considering implementing a domestic travel vaccination requirement. However, he said that the topic was being discussed with the nation’s governors on Monday morning.

Biden described the conversation before he left the White House to return to his home in Rehoboth Beach.

Biden, during the virtual meeting with governors pledged the full support to the federal government for states facing increases in COVID-19 instances from the more-transmissible Omicron variant. He also ran at-home testing that was dominating headlines this holiday season.

Biden stated, "My message to you is that if you have a need, we will be there for it." Biden acknowledged the long lines and chaos that Americans faced as they sought testing during the surge in cases and as they tried to gather with loved ones over the holiday.

He said, "Seeing how difficult it was for some people to get a test on this weekend shows us that we have more to do." He referenced his administration's plan to make 500 million rapid tests available to Americans beginning next month through an as-yet-to-be-developed website.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (chair of the National Governors Association) expressed concern that Biden's plan might hinder state efforts to increase the supply of test supplies.

He said that this "dries up supply chains for what we might provide as governors", and that the shortage of supply had "become a real problem."

Biden assured Hutchinson the federal effort would not interfere with state actions. He stated, "This is solved at the state-level."

According to a White House official, the new tests will be performed using new manufacturing capabilities and won't affect existing supply chains.

The White House looked into a domestic vaccination requirement to fly earlier this year. This would have required either proof of positive test or vaccination. Officials have been reluctant to require vaccination for domestic flights because they fear it will face legal challenges. This could limit its effectiveness as a tool to increase vaccinations.

Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, stated that when asked by MSNBC last week why Biden hadn't mandated vaccinations for domestic airline travel, "we know that masking is very effective on planes."

She added that "we also know that putting in that additional restriction might delay flight, might have additional implications." We would consider it, however, if the impact on health was severe. We rely on the advice of medical and health experts. They have not determined that this is the right step to take.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 241,000,000 Americans have had at least one shot with the COVID-19 vaccine. This is 77% of eligible population aged 5 and older. Officials suspect that some of the overcounts are due to errors in record-keeping during the administration of booster shots.

The Biden administration has adopted a variety of vaccination requirements since the summer to encourage unvaccinated Americans. It has instituted requirements that federal workers, federal contractors and those who work in health care get their shots, and that employers with 100 or more employees institute vaccination-or-testing requirements for their workers.

These vaccination requirements are currently mired in legal wrangling. The Supreme Court will hear arguments Jan. 7, in cases seeking to repeal them.

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