The Slatest

Fauci: Vaccine Mandate for Domestic Flights “Seriously Should Be Considered”

Fauci in a mask standing amid a crowd of people
Dr. Anthony Fauci at the White House on Dec. 1. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, thinks the government should be debating whether to impose a rule requiring domestic travelers to be fully vaccinated before boarding a plane as the omicron variant is leading to record COVID-19 cases across the country. The United States currently requires everyone flying into the country from abroad to be fully vaccinated, and it may make sense to broaden that rule so it applies to all fliers.

“You’ve got to ask yourself why it is you’re making that requirement,” Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told MSNBC on Monday morning. “If you’re making a requirement for vaccination for people to get on planes who are coming into the country, that’s understandable. You don’t want to bring more cases into the country. But if you’re talking about requiring vaccination to get on a plane domestically, that is just another one of the requirements that I think is reasonable to consider.”

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Fauci declined to say whether he had made that recommendation to Biden, but he did emphasize that these types of rules could push more people to get vaccinated and that’s always a desirable outcome. “When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci said. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”

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On Sunday, Fauci had been asked a similar question on ABC’s This Week, and he said that while he supported the goal of getting more people vaccinated, requiring the shot to board wouldn’t necessarily make flying all that much safer. The key, he insisted, is to not take masks off while inside the plane. “With regard to the spread of virus in the country, I mean, I think if you look at wearing a mask and the filtration on planes, things are reasonably safe,” he said. “We want to make sure people keep their masks on. I think the idea of taking masks off, in my mind, is really not something we should even be considering.” Still, he noted that “anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome.”

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