The US should consider instituting a vaccine mandate for domestic travelers, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday.
The country’s top infectious disease expert told reporters that the nation should consider implementing such a mandate for domestic air travel, as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus spikes around the country. His surprise remarks harkened back to the first time the idea had been sent up as a trial balloon, before it was shot down by the Biden administration.
Fauci, who has served several administrations over the years, said that imposing the mandate might cause more people to become vaccinated, and give the public more protection on flights. Currently, federal regulations require all those age two and older to wear masks.
Vaccine mandate unpopular earlier in 2021
In an interview with MSNBC on Monday, Fauci stated “When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated. If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”
However, Biden’s science advisers have not come out for such a mandate as of yet, not have they brought the matter before the President.
The advisers spoke to the Associated Press recently on condition of anonymity, citing the confidentiality of internal deliberations, stated they were leery of the potential legal and logistical issues that would crop up as a result of any such interstate mandate.
While the US obligates most foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated, citizens and permanent residents of the country need only to show proof of a negative test that was taken within one day of traveling.
Vaccination rates vary widely from state to state, with the more populous northeastern states heavily vaccinated, while those in the South and rural West are much less so.
The state of Hawaii is currently the only state to require American citizens to show proof of vaccination in order to escape having to go into quarantine after they land.
While Biden admitted that the issue of a mandate had been discussed in a videoconference with the nation’s governors on Monday morning, he did not respond to reporters’ questions regarding whether or not he would institute such measures domestically.
He told the press that the governors “asked Dr. Fauci some more questions about everything from whether or not he thought he was going to move to test at home — I mean, on air flights and that kind of thing,” before he left the White House to spend time at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Biden pledged the full support of the federal government for states facing virus spikes at the same time as a dearth of at-home test kits.
“My message is: If you need something, say something, and we’re going to have your back any way we can,” Biden told the Associated Press. He stated that he was aware of the long lines and difficulties Americans faced this Christmas as they tried to get tested before Christmas and New Years’ festivities.
“Seeing how tough it was for some folks to get a test this weekend shows that we have more work to do,” the President acknowledged, adding that his plan was to make 500 million rapid tests available beginning in January by means of a website which has still not Bern created.
National Governors Association chairman, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson told the press that he worries that Biden’s plan might complicate states’ efforts to boost their own supply of tests within their borders.
“That dries up the supply chain for what we might offer as governors,” Hutchinson explained, saying the lack of available self-tests “has become a real challenge.”
However, Biden was quick to assure Hutchinson, stating that the federal effort won’t have a deleterious effect on the states, adding “This gets solved at the state level.”
A White House official was further quoted as saying that said the new tests would be produced from new manufacturing capacity, neither robbing Peter to pay Paul nor interfering with the supply chains that are currently operating at as high a rate of speed as possible.
While Americans face huge lines at the airport this week as they attempted to get to their holiday destinations and there are ever-increasing numbers of confrontations regarding masks while onboard flights, the Biden Administration appears to be regarding instituting a mask mandate as a last resort.
The White House had mulled such a mandate earlier in 2021, but appeared to scrap the idea after contemplating ht many legal challenges that may crop up if such a measure is taken. Preferring to take a softer line and hoping that other incentives would encourage Americans to become vaccinated, the Biden Administration continues to press their point that masking is indeed effective.
Vaccine mandate on airplane travel avoided in past in drive for masking
Just last week, when asked why the President hadn’t already instituted mandatory vaccines for domestic air travel, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary told MSNBC “we know that masking can be, is, very effective on airplanes.
“We also know that putting in place that additional restriction might delay flights, might have additional implications,” Psaki acknowledged, adding “We would do it, though, if the health impact was overwhelming. So we rely always on the advice of our health and medical experts. That isn’t a step at this point that they had determined we need to take.”
As of Monday, information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that more than 241 million Americans, representing approximately 77% of the eligible population, have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine.
However, there is conflicting information on how many Americans have received booster shots; the process is not digitized, so there is confusion regarding whether or not people have received their second or third shot.
The Biden administration has pushed the implementation of a range of vaccination requirements as a way to get the hesitant to take their shots. As of now, federal workers and contractors , as well as all those in health care fields, must get their inoculations. In addition, companies with 100 or more employees must have requirements mandating vaccinations or continual testing.
However, those measures came in for legal challenges right away. The Supreme Court will hear arguments beginning on January 7 in which plaintiffs are attempting to overturn the mandates.