White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Sunday that "anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome" when asked about potential vaccine mandates for domestic air travel, a stark contrast to comments previously made by President Joe Biden.
During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," Fauci was asked if agreed with Biden, who said in a recent interview that vaccine mandates for air travel were not "necessary at this time."
"Well, it depends on what you want to use it for," Fauci said. "I mean, vaccine requirements for people coming in from other countries is to prevent newly infected people from getting into the country."
"A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated," he continued. "Namely, you can't get on a plane unless you're vaccinated, which is just another one of the ways of getting requirements, whatever that might be."
Fauci on a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel: "Anything to get more people vaccinated would be welcome" pic.twitter.com/f1t8DPiyY6— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) December 26, 2021
Fauci went on to emphasize that if air travel vaccine mandates were to be implemented, they would become another "mechanism that would spur [people] to get vaccinated."
"I mean, anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome," he said.
The nation's top infectious disease expert also said that he still believes mask mandates should remain in place for air travelers.
"I think the idea of taking masks off, in my mind, is really not something we should even be considering, and that's what we meant by it depends on what the goal of getting people vaccinated before they get on a domestic flight," Fauci said.
His comment about masks comes despite airline CEOs saying in a recent hearing on Capitol Hill that face coverings do very little during flights because airplanes have extraordinary air filtration systems.
"I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much, if anything, in the air cabin environment," Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said Wednesday when asked if people would ever be able to fly without a mask. "It’s very safe, and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting."
In a Dec. 20 letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Federal Aviation Administration, a group of Democratic lawmakers – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (CA), along with Reps. Eric Swalwell (CA), Donald Beyer (VA) and Richie Torres (N.Y.) – requested a vaccine requirement for domestic air travelers.
Fully vaccinated international travelers are currently allowed to enter the U.S. if they can provide proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 24 hours of their flight.