White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that people should not expect the government to mandate a COVID-19 vaccine to fly domestically, hours after saying that such a requirement should be considered.
“Right now, I don’t think people should expect that we’re going to have a requirement in domestic flights for people to be vaccinated,” Fauci said on CNN’s “The Situation Room,” later adding: “I doubt if we’re going to see something like that in the reasonably foreseeable future.”
However, Fauci appeared to advocate for a mandate in a series of interviews Sunday and earlier Monday.
“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,” he told MSNBC Monday morning. “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.”
In a sitdown with ABC News’ “This Week” that aired Sunday, Fauci said that a vaccination requirement for domestic travel “is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated … anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome.”
When asked about his earlier statements by host Jim Acosta, Fauci responded: “What I said, Jim, was that everything that comes up as a possibility, we put it on the table and we consider it. That does not mean that it is going to be likely to happen … When I was asked that question, I gave an honest answer. It’s on the table, we consider it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”
“Right now, I don’t see this being announced or happening in the reasonable future unless things change dramatically,” Fauci said later in the interview, before adding: “Right now, that’s not going to be done. But we never take anything off the table. We always keep things open for consideration.”
Fauci also denied that there was any “conflict” within the White House COVID-19 reponse team over the issue, telling Acosta: “It’s not a question of being in favor of it or not. I’m in favor of what we can do to keep the country safe. If the situation arises where that’s something that we think should be important to do, we’ll do it.”
The US is experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases propelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, with more than half a million new infections reported Monday.
The surge in cases has led to thousands of flight cancellations and delays as airlines struggle to find replacements for staff who called out sick, leaving travelers stranded at airports across the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 62 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.