WASHINGTON –Dr.Anthony Fauci, America’s foremost infectious disease expert, said on Monday that the United States should consider a vaccination mandate for domestic air travel, signaling potential adherence to an idea the Biden administration had previously avoided , as cases of COVID-19 increase.
Fauci, chief scientific adviser to President Joe Biden on the pandemic response, said such a mandate could increase the country’s delayed vaccination rate and provide stronger protection for flights, for which federal regulations require all people 2 years of age and older wear a mask.
“When you make vaccination a requirement, it’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci told MSNBC. “If you want to do it with domestic flights, I think that’s something that should be seriously considered.”
The Biden administration has so far balked at imposing a vaccination requirement for domestic air travel. Two officials said Biden’s science advisers have yet to make a formal recommendation to the president for such a requirement.
Officials, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said a warrant for vaccination on planes could trigger a host of logistical and legal problems.
The United States currently requires that most foreign nationals traveling to the United States be fully immunized against the coronavirus, although citizens and permanent residents only need to prove that a negative test taken within one day of the test. baording.
Federal rules do not require people traveling by air to the United States to test negative. Hawaii requires travelers to test or show proof of vaccination to avoid a mandatory quarantine.
Biden did not respond to questions about whether he was considering implementing a vaccination requirement for domestic air travel, but he told reporters the matter was discussed during a call with officials. governors of the country Monday morning.
“They asked Dr Fauci more questions about everything, whether or not he thought he was going to move out to test at home – I mean, on air flights and that sort of thing,” said Biden on the call before leaving the White House. for his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Earlier this year, the White House explored a national vaccination requirement for flights, or a requirement for vaccination or proof of negative test. But officials were unwilling to impose vaccination for domestic air travel, as they expected it to face immediate legal challenges, mitigating its potential effectiveness as a tool to scale up vaccinations.
Pressed last week on why Biden didn’t make vaccination mandatory for domestic air travel, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC that “we know masking can be , is, very effective in airplanes “.
“We also know that putting this additional restriction in place could delay flights, could have additional implications,” she added. “We would, however, if the health impact were overwhelming. So we always rely on the advice of our medical and health experts. It’s not a step at this point that they’ve determined that we need to take.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than 241 million Americans, about 77% of the eligible population aged 5 and older, have received at least one injection of a COVID-19 vaccine. Officials believe, however, that there is some overshoot in the numbers due to record-keeping errors in administering the booster injections.
Since the summer, the Biden administration has adopted various vaccination requirements as a way to get unvaccinated Americans to roll up their sleeves. It instituted requirements that federal workers, federal contractors, and those working in health care get vaccinated, and that employers with 100 or more employees institute vaccination or testing requirements for their workers.
Those vaccination requirements have been mired in legal wrangling, with the Supreme Court due to hear arguments on Jan. 7 in cases to overturn them.
Associated Press editor Darlene Superville in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, contributed.
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