Mandatory COVID-19 vaccines are coming for international travelers

  • Once a successful coronavirus vaccine arrives, air carriers may start making it mandatory for international fliers to receive an immunization for COVID-19 before they can travel to their destination.
  • That’s already set to be the case at Qantas, the Australian airline, whose CEO has said it will eventually be mandatory for international travelers on Qantas to first prove they’ve received a coronavirus vaccine.
  • Moreover, the Qantas CEO thinks other airlines will follow suit in mandating coronavirus vaccinations.

Not everyone is exactly using conditional language to talk about what happens after the coronavirus vaccine and the first Americans (and citizens of other countries) begin to receive their immunizations.

For example, the federal official who heads up the government’s coronavirus vaccine development program has talked about the percentage of Americans that would be needed to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in order for the US to reach herd immunity and an end to the pandemic. Referring specifically to early results that show Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate having a 95% efficacy rate, Operation Warp Speed head Dr. Moncef Slaoui told CNN over the weekend: “Normally, with the level of efficacy we have, 95%, 70% or so of the population being immunized would allow for true herd immunity to take place.” Again, with his language suggestion that 70% would be great to achieve but is not necessarily a given. Meanwhile, the private sector — including executives like Qantas CEO Alan Joyce — is talking about all this much differently.

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Speaking with an Australian news program, the top executive at the Australian airline said its plan is to make proof of a COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for international travelers next years. Moreover, he thinks other airlines will follow suit.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers, that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft,” Qantas’ CEO told Channel 9’s A Current Affair program. He allowed that domestic flights are more of a question mark along these lines, but with “what happens with COVID-19 in the market, but certainly for international visitors coming out, and people leaving the country, we think that’s a necessity.”

How would fliers go about showing proof of something like this? Joyce thinks it could be stored in a kind of electronic “digital passport” that some governments and airlines already reportedly have in development.

This comes ahead of new progress in the rollout of the first wave of coronavirus vaccines, which could start to be given to US recipients as early as December 12. That’s according to Dr. Slaoui, who told CNN that the FDA is set to take action on Pfizer’s application for an emergency use authorization on December 10. Officials expect to deliver the vaccine to states 24 hours after that, with the first Americans able to actually get the vaccination two days later — so, on December 12.

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