Biden administration refuses to rule out vaccine mandates for domestic flights

Majority of Americans favor a vaccine requirement for air travel:

The Biden administration is refusing to rule out a requirement for U.S. travelers flying domestically to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test at the airport as it seeks to curb the surging delta variant.

 "We are always looking at more we can do to protect and save lives," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday when asked if President Biden would consider a vaccine mandate for domestic flights.

A Gallup poll published last week shows that a majority of Americans favor a vaccine requirement for air travel: About 61% of respondents said they supported such a policy. 

But the support differed starkly among Democrats and Republicans, and among the vaccinated and unvaccinated: 96% of vaccinated Democrats and 48% of vaccinated Republicans said they supported a vaccine mandate for flying, compared to 66% of unvaccinated Democrats and 12% of unvaccinated Republicans.


"Overall, I think we have a very strong track record that shows we're pulling available levers to acquire vaccinations," Biden's COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said this week when asked about the possibility of a vaccinate mandate for airports. "We're not taking any measures off the table."

Earlier this week, Biden unveiled new policies targeting the vaccine-resistant, including requiring most federal employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations and private companies that employ more than 100 people to have their workers inoculated or tested weekly. Under the rule, private companies will also be required to provide paid time off for employees to get the shot. 

The new measures would apply to about two-thirds of the country's workforce. Those who don't comply could face a steep fine.

In addition to the vaccination requirements, Biden announced plans to double federal fines for airline passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights or to maintain face-covering requirements on federal property.


"We've been patient," Biden told the tens of millions of Americans who have refused to get the coronavirus shot. "But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us."

While the U.S. was making solid progress with vaccinations – 75.4% of adults have received at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and infections began falling, cases rebounded over the summer as the highly contagious delta variant spread largely among the unvaccinated population.  

The U.S. is averaging about 140,000 new COVID-19 cases per day with roughly 1,000 deaths, according to CDC data.

Although breakthrough infections occur in vaccinated people occur, they tend to be far less dangerous.