Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the Biden administration, thinks the U.S. should “seriously” consider imposing a vaccine requirement for domestic air travel.

“When you make vaccination a requirement, that’s another incentive to get more people vaccinated,” Fauci said Monday on MSNBC. “If you want to do that with domestic flights, I think that’s something that seriously should be considered.”


Fauci made his comments as the omicron variant has caused COVID-19 infections to soar across the globe. New cases are up 83% in the U.S. over the past two weeks. 

Preliminary evidence suggests that omicron is less severe than other forms of the virus, but its increased transmissibility can cause a strain on already beleaguered hospital systems.

“The group we’re really concerned about is the unvaccinated people because even if this virus is inherently less severe, just the volume of the number of cases that we’re going to have could actually put a stress on the hospital system,” Fauci said on MSNBC.

Fauci made similar comments Sunday during an appearance on ABC News.

“A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated. Namely, you can’t get on a plane unless you’re vaccinated, which is just another one of the ways of getting requirements, whatever that might be,” Fauci said.

 He told interviewer Jonathan Karl that mask wearing on planes is particularly important. “I think the idea of taking masks off, in my mind, is really not something we should even be considering, and that’s what we meant by it depends on what the goal of getting people vaccinated before they get on a domestic flight,” Fauci said.

Earlier this month, Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly testified in Congress “that masks don’t add much” on airplanes. A day later, he testified positive for COVID-19.

The Hill provides context:

Currently, fully vaccinated international travelers are permitted to enter the U.S. as long as they show proof of inoculation and present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 24 hours of their flight.
Travelers can be inoculated with the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, all of which are authorized in the U.S., in addition to shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, including AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm and Sinovac, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.