WASHINGTON – The White House’s recommendation to require all visitors traveling to the United States to provide proof of vaccination has sparked speculation over whether the federal government will ultimately require passengers on domestic flights to be vaccinated as well.
Speculation grew even before the new requirements when Dr Anthony Fauci told The Skimm podcast earlier this month that he would support the vaccination requirement for air travel. âIf you want to get on a plane and travel with other peopleâ¦ you have to be vaccinated,â said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and senior medical adviser to the Biden administration.
White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients, announcing the international requirement on Monday, fueled this speculation by refusing to rule out a possible domestic travel requirement. “We are not taking any action on the table,” he said.
But such a requirement has led aviation-related stakeholders to complain that logistical hurdles would be difficult at best and a nightmare at worst.
For example: who would check the proof of vaccination? What safeguards would be in place to ensure that the documents are not fraudulent? Would the paper cards currently given to the vaccinated be enough? What kind of central registry is there to help airlines know if people are vaccinated? How would airlines treat children not yet eligible for such a vaccine? And would such a requirement extend to other types of travel, such as buses and trains?
âIt should have been obvious long ago that there was going to be a need for a more reliable mechanism to authenticate immunization status than a fragile, handwritten cardboard card – if only because other countries were likely to require it to travel, whatever we may do. made in the United States, âsaid Julian Sanchez, senior researcher at the Cato Libertarian Institute.
He said such a process could have been done without requiring any sort of mainstream federal database of people vaccinated. The CDC could have – and still can – simply say that vaccine records must be offered in physical and digital form by vendors, and use one of the various protocols already in existence to cryptographically authenticate record information.
This model would have kept lists of vaccinees with states and health care providers on a centralized database to authenticate that the card was issued by a real provider and verify the printed information.
“It’s a lot trickier now, of course, because we have tens of millions of people already vaccinated who should receive updated records,” he said.
Lawmakers’ response to a vaccine mandate for air travel ranged from ambivalence to outright opposition.
“I think it’s up to the airlines to decide for themselves,” said Senator Jacky Rosen, D-Nev.
Opposition to warrant
“I don’t think the American people would support him,” said Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
âI don’t think there should be any COVID warrants,â said Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “It means no vaccine warrant, it means no mask warrant, it means no vaccine passport.”
Cruz, who introduced a bill banning vaccination warrants, said he was concerned the Biden administration would institute such a requirement. “Joe Biden has demonstrated his willingness to flout personal freedom and medical confidentiality in order to distract from the disaster of withdrawal from Afghanistan,” he said.
Representative Thomas Massie, R-Ky., Was also concerned. He introduced an amendment to the budget resolution of the Transport and Infrastructure Committee to prevent funds from the draft measure being used to impose or support vaccine requirements as a condition for traveling on public or private transport. The committee did not approve the amendment.
Massie said Fauci’s comments prompted him to bring forward the amendment. âI think this is absolutely wrong, a bad idea, which is going to hurt the economy,â he said.
In contrast, Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., D-Va., Introduced a bill that would require a full COVID vaccination or negative test for domestic air travel and Amtrak.
âEvery regulatory element is a balance of rights,â Beyer said. âYou have the right to smoke, but you can kill yourself. But you are not allowed to blow second-hand smoke into someone’s airspace. It’s the same with the vaccine. It’s sad if you choose to put yourself in danger of premature death or long COVID, but it is unacceptable to put other people in danger. You can choose for yourself, but you cannot choose for everyone. “
Beyer said he has received more calls on this bill than most. Only about 3% oppose it, he said. âThe other 97% say, ‘Why aren’t we doing this already? “”
The US Travel Association, a national non-profit organization representing the travel industry, is among the organizations that have spoken out against vaccination warrants for domestic travel. He warned in a statement last month that the policy “would have an unfair and negative impact on families with young children who are not yet eligible for vaccination.”
âUS Travel has long argued that there should be no mandatory vaccination requirements for domestic travel,â said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy. She stressed that the federal mask mandate provided sufficient protection for domestic travelers.
Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian told CNN in August that such a requirement “would be a real logistical problem.”
âThere is no evidence that there has been a spread of COVID in the domestic air transportation system,â Bastian said.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told CNN that any decision on vaccine warrants for travel to the United States would be “in the hands of the government.”
Although stakeholders are concerned, polls indicate that a majority of people support proof of vaccination for air travel. A Monmouth University poll found that 59% of Americans said people would need to have proof of vaccination to get on a plane.
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