Airline Trade Group: COVID-19 Vaccines Should Not Be Mandated for International Travel

Officers of the German Federal Police check passengers arriving by plane from Prague at the Frankfurt Airport in Frankfurt, Germany, on Jan. 24, 2021. (Boris Roessler/dpa via AP)
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BY MEILING LEE

While airlines advocate for a digital health passport that can prove people’s vaccination or negative test status to open up international travel again, an international airline trade group is saying COVID-19 vaccines should not be mandated.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says governments should not require a vaccine as proof for entry into a country as it could discriminate against people who are medically exempt or refuse to get inoculated.

“In fact, IATA does not support making vaccines a mandatory requirement for international travel,” Perry Flint, head of corporate communications USA at IATA, told The Epoch Times in an email. “However, governments set the requirements for border entry and it is up to airlines and air travelers to comply with them.”

IATA has developed its own digital passport, called the Travel Pass, which has been tested with over a dozen international carriers.

Flint says the Travel Pass “does not contain a tracking code” and allows travelers to store their vaccination or test results on their smartphone.

“In terms of protecting the information of IATA Travel Pass users, travelers always remain in control of their data with their privacy protected,” Flint said. “The IATA Travel Pass does not store any data centrally. It simply links entities that need verification (airlines and governments) with the test or vaccination data when travelers permit.”

In a report from Top10VPN, a security research organization, of the 73 COVID-19 digital health certificate apps operating globally, 60 apps, or 82 percent “have inadequate privacy policies” and “32 apps (44%) monitor users’ precise location.”

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

A handout image shows the Excelsior Pass, a platform that lets New Yorkers present proof of COVID-19 vaccination at events. (Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo)

Governments around the world are turning to the private sector to develop vaccine passports, or “health passports,” to allow vaccinated individuals to travel or enter certain spaces and events. New York launched its own version, the Excelsior Pass, on March 26, while Hawaii state officials say they are considering adopting a vaccine passport to encourage inter-island travel.

Jeff Price, a leading expert in aviation security and airport management, says that vaccine passports are “a solution looking for a problem” as they would require too much infrastructure and training to implement.

“There’s going to be a lot of infrastructure that needs to be put into place and a tremendous amount of training for the ticket agents, for gate agents, [and] for all the people within the airline system as to how do I vet whatever this new credential is,” Price told NTD’s “The Nation Speaks.”

“We’re talking about putting a lot of responsibility on people that really didn’t sign up for this and aren’t necessarily qualified to make a lot of these decisions,” he added.

Dr. Teryn Clarke, communications director for America’s Frontline Doctors, told The Epoch Times in an email that there is “no place in a free society” for vaccine passports.

“Corporations threatening to deny access to services in order to coerce consumers into accepting an investigational vaccine is without precedent,” Clarke said. “We have collected hundreds of thousands of signatures from concerned citizens which ought to signal to the Biden administration and its industry allies that a vaccine passport is both unconstitutional and medically irresponsible.”

Roadmap to Restarting International Travel

Over two dozen air travel groups and other organizations urged the Biden administration on March 22 to create a roadmap to “rescind inbound international travel restrictions” by May 1, coinciding with Biden’s directive to make vaccines available to every American adult by that day.

The group is asking that the roadmap include the development of health passports, exempting vaccinated passengers “from the international testing requirements,” not mandating vaccination “as a prerequisite to travel,” and updating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guideline to “state that vaccinated individuals can travel safely” while continuing to keep other preventative measures in place.

The CDC recently updated its guidance on April 2 that people who’ve received their final COVID-19 vaccine may travel without self-isolating or taking a test.

“Fully vaccinated people can travel within the United States and COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine are not required as long as they continue to take COVID-19 precautions while traveling-wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, socially distancing, and washing hands frequently,” the CDC said.

There are currently no requirements to travel within the United States, except to Hawaii where visitors have to quarantine for 10 days without proof of a negative test. For international travel, countries including the United States only require evidence of a negative COVID-19 test several days prior to departure for entry.

2nd Tiered System

While vaccine passports are seen by some as the key to safely opening up the economy, critics say it would create a two-tiered society, punishing those who do not get inoculated.

Bioethics expert at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Sarah Chan, told NTD that vaccine passports are a “disproportionately technologically heavy solution” that would turn “people into second and third class biocitizens.”

The rollout of vaccine passports would discriminate against a certain group as was seen with the mask mandate that airlines had put in place in 2020.

Several major airlines that allowed no exemptions to fly without a mask refused to accommodate people with medical exemptions and parents of autistic children or toddlers who were not able to keep their child’s mask on.

People wait for a flight at an international terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) in New York City, on Jan. 25, 2021. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

American AirlinesAlaska Airlines, and Southwest Airlines issued a mask mandate last summer that did not allow exemptions for anyone over the age of two and banned customers who didn’t comply with their new mask policy.

But now anyone who refuses to wear a mask at airports and on board will be in violation of federal law, according to the CDC’s mask mandate for traveling on public transportation issued on Feb. 2, following an executive order from President Joe Biden.

Then-Acting Secretary of Homeland Security David Pekoske empowered the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to “take actions consistent with the authorities in ATSA [Aviation and Transportation Security Act]” to enforce the CDC’s mask requirement by signing a Determination of National Emergency (pdf).

In an updated press release, the TSA says individuals violating the mask mandate may be fined “from $250 for the first offense up to $1,500 for repeat offenders.” However, fines may be higher depending on “substantial aggravating or mitigating factors.” The mask mandate is to remain in effect until May 11, 2021.

The CDC’s mask order exempts children younger than two and medically exempt individuals.

American Airlines updated their policy to allow for the exemptions provided that passengers must put in a request at least 72 hours to be exempted from the mask mandate, and then submit a physician’s note and a negative test three days prior to departure or proof of recovery from COVID-19.

Alaska Airlines also took the same approach but requests that customers call the airline “at least one week before departure” to begin the exemption process.

Delta is requiring passengers claiming an exemption to undergo a virtual consultation with “a third-party medical professional prior to departure at the airport” that may last about an hour. The airliner’s “Clearance-To-Fly” process was implemented last July.

Masks may only be taken off when eating, drinking, or taking oral medication for “brief periods,” according to Delta, adding, “Prolonged periods of mask removal will not be permitted for eating or drinking, and the mask must be worn between bites and sips.”

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