US surgeon general defends not requiring vaccines for planes

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US surgeon general defends not requiring vaccines for planes

US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Sunday defended the Biden administration not requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to travel on airplanes, saying that unvaccinated people need to be able to fly in emergency situations.

Murthy said it was “reasonable” to consider implementing vaccine rules for travel but also necessary to take into account “equity concerns.”

“We know that when it comes to mandating vaccines for travel there are important issues around equity that would have to be worked out, to ensure that people, for example, if they have to travel in the case of emergency to see a relative who got sick, would be able to do that, even if you know they weren’t vaccinated,” Murthy told CNN anchor Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

Travelers wear face coverings in the line for airport security.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also said it was “reasonable” to consider implementing vaccine rules for travel.
David Zalubowski/AP

Murthy, however, insisted that President Biden’s new vaccine rules, which will require businesses with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing, are necessary steps in fighting the pandemic.

“I think [it’s] an appropriate response for us to recognize that if we want our economy to be back, if we want our schools to stay in session, we’ve got to take steps to make sure workplaces and learning environments are safe and these requirements will help do that,” Murthy told ABC “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Under Biden’s mandate, all federal employees will also need to be vaccinated, with few exceptions.  

Passengers wearing protective masks on a plane.
Air travel passengers must currently wear a face covering for the duration of the flight.
Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“The COVID virus is a dangerous virus,” Murthy said. “It makes our workplaces and our schools, far less safe than they should be. So this is an appropriate action, we believe, and it’s certainly from a public health perspective — most importantly — will help keep workers safe.”

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