Press Releases

Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced the U.S. Air Travel Public Safety Act, a bill that would require all passengers on domestic airline flights to either be fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative for COVID-19 or have fully recovered from COVID-19.

The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Federal Aviation Administration, to develop national vaccination standards and procedures related to COVID-19 and domestic air travel in order to prevent future outbreaks of the disease.

The bill would also require the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to make recommendations for COVID-19 vaccine use in health care settings and among health care personnel in other settings. 

The legislation builds on a current CDC requirement that all air passengers traveling to the United States from a foreign country must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19. Last week, the Biden administration announced it will work with airlines to implement additional protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on international flights.

“We know that air travel during the 2020 holiday season contributed to last winter’s devastating COVID-19 surge. We simply cannot allow that to happen again,” Feinstein said.

“Ensuring that air travelers protect themselves and their destination communities from this disease is critical to prevent the next surge, particularly if we confront new, more virulent variants of COVID-19. This bill complements similar travel requirements already in place for all air passengers – including Americans – who fly to the United States from foreign countries. This includes flights from foreign countries with lower COVID-19 rates than many U.S. states.

“It only makes sense that we also ensure the millions of airline passengers that crisscross our country aren’t contributing to further transmission, especially as young children remain ineligible to be vaccinated.”

The bill is supported by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Public Health Association.

Dr. Barbara D. Alexander, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and professor of medicine and pathology at Duke University School of Medicine said: “Vaccination is a critical strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccination requirements in multiple settings are an important mechanism to boost vaccination rates, prevent infections and hospitalizations and save lives. The Infectious Diseases Society of America supports Senator Feinstein’s legislation to require vaccination for domestic air travel as part of our nation’s broader COVID-19 vaccination strategy.” 

Background

  • According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 vaccines continued to offer strong protection after the Delta variant became predominant over the summer. People who were fully vaccinated were five times less likely to be infected and more than 10 times less likely to be admitted to the hospital or die compared to those who were unvaccinated.  
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the United States is seeing its highest weekly totals of pediatric COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. The CDC also found that in August, emergency department visits and hospital admissions among children were higher in states with lower vaccine rates and lower in states with higher vaccine rates. 
  • According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people traveling to other counties or states last year contributed to higher COVID-19 case numbers in their destination communities. Authors of the study later observed that this was especially true during the 2020 summer and winter holidays.
  • According to a Mayo Clinic Proceedings study, COVID-19 testing requirements for airline passengers could have a meaningful effect on detecting active infections either immediately before or after a flight. 
  • According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, about three in 10 people surveyed who were waiting to be vaccinated said they would be more likely to get vaccinated if airlines required passengers to be vaccinated. This number increased to about four in 10 among unvaccinated individuals who said they would only get the vaccine if required.
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