Editor’s Note: This story was updated on 2/12/21 to include reaction from U.S. Travel.
It’s “quite possible” getting vaccinated for Covid-19 could be as necessary to board an airplane this year as having your ID and boarding pass. “Anything is on the table. Anything is possible, of course,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told Newsweek .
Fauci said he didn’t expect such a mandate to come from the federal government but said it could be issued by state or local governments—or your boss, customer or business partner.
“Here at the NIH [National Institutes of Health], I would not be allowed to see patients if I didn’t get vaccinated every year with flu and get vaccinated once with Hepatitis [B]. I have to get certified every year,” Fauci noted.
This possibility has begun to get traction from airlines and industry groups. In December, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce suggested that once coronavirus vaccines are widely accessible international passengers on his planes will have to be vaccinated before being allowed to fly into Australia.
More: The Future of Air Travel: Here Comes Sanitized Flying
Joyce said the airline is currently developing ways to electronically verify that people have received the vaccine, according to an AP report. “We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers, that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft,” Joyce said.
Korean Air, South Korea’s largest airline, said this week it would require vaccinations, as “governments are likely to require vaccinations as a condition for lifting quarantine requirements for new arrivals.”
Several international carriers are working with beta versions of Common Pass, an app endorsed by the World Economic Forum that will provide a standardized way for airlines to evaluate the coronavirus test results of passengers, according to news reports. International Air Transport Association (IATA) also says it’s developing a Covid-19 Travel Pass app so passengers can easily prove Covid testing and vaccination at airports.
IATA hasn’t yet called for mandatory vaccinations. Its official position is to recommend testing, including required testing. Another industry trade group, Airport Council International, has come out against vaccination requirements, fearing this could cripple industry recovery.
U.S. airlines have so far been mum on the subject, with the exception of American Airlines. Fodor’s reported American says it’s too early to consider vaccine mandates.
What started as a requirement by the CDC for proof of a negative Covid test for international flights and proposed for domestic flights drew push-back from the travel industry.
“The high cost and low availability of testing make a domestic testing mandate a challenging concept to put into practice. Based on January 2021 data, a testing requirement for domestic air travel would necessitate a 42 percent increase in daily testing capacity nationwide, a substantial use of testing resources when air travel has already been shown to be safer than many other routine activities,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel.