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Tipsheet

NIH's Francis Collins: Proof of Vaccination and Negative Test for Domestic Travel Would Be 'Extremely Onerous'

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

During his Sunday show appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Dr. Francis Collins, the director of National Institutes of Health (NIH) pushed back on host Chuck Todd's idea that domestic travelers from within the United States should have to show proof of vaccination and a negative test for COVID-19. 

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Todd's questioning not only stuck his nose up at fellow Americans--specifically those from Idaho--he did so at the expense of lamenting travel restrictions those from Singapore have to go through. 

As the conversation between Todd and Dr. Collins went:

CHUCK TODD:

And I want to ask you about the issue of international travel versus domestic travel. If someone flies to Washington, D.C., over the holidays, it's a popular tourist destination, from Singapore where 96% of the eligible population is vaccinated, that person has to show proof of vaccination and a negative test. But someone flying to D.C. from Idaho, where less than half of the population is fully vaccinated, doesn't have to do either. How is that at all logical about protecting our community?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS:

Well, you know, I think, Chuck, we're trying to be practical here. If you tried to impose those kinds of restrictions on domestic air travel, that would be extremely onerous for people who are trying to get around the country for things like holidays. And I don't know how much we'd gain by it. If we're worried about whether you're trying to protect some community from Delta, well, Delta's all over the place right now. There's not some chance that you're going to see it spread by air travel that's not happening already in communities. So, I think we've got it about right. I do think we have an investment in making sure people aren't bringing new cases, especially when we have things like Omicron to worry about. Hence, the importance of requiring international travelers to be vaccinated and to show they've had a negative test. I think that's the right balance.

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Fortunately, Dr. Collins acknowledged that such restrictions on American citizens "would be extremely onerous for people who are trying to get around the country for things like holidays." He also pointed out that "I don't know how much we'd gain by it" and that "Delta's all over the place right now" already.

Those who are vaccinated may actually spread the Delta variant--the dominant variant in this country--just as much as those who have not been vaccinated, as was discovered in late October. 

Further, states with higher vaccine rates are also seeing as much a rise in COVID cases, if not more than, states with lower rates. 

Something not discussed during the segment but worth mentioning is that, as Matt reported last week, President Joe Biden is extending the mask mandate on public transportation, including airplanes, until next March.

While it may be encouraging to hear Dr. Collins point out that such restrictions for fellow Americans are, indeed, "extremely onerous," whether the Biden administration listens is what matters most.

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As Katie reported last Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing that "nothing is off the table, including domestic travel" when it comes to vaccine mandates. Psaki did also add, though, that "we do have some strong protections in place already."

"How we look at this, is, of course, we base our decisions on the advice of the health and medical experts, what's going to be the most effective and what we can implement. What is most implementable," she explained.

Unfortunately, there was a ridiculous precaution that Collins did appear on board with. 

Dr. Collins shared that the people who organized a holiday party in his neighborhood last night said "you're not coming to our house unless you prove you're vaccinated and you got a test that day." He went on to say "that is maybe the kind of thing for holiday gatherings we should be doing more of as well."

Todd gave no pushback on that requirement, nor did he point out how "extremely onerous" that would be for vaccinated people to get tested and tie up resources for testing centers. 

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As I reported though, that's not something the American people were on board with for Thanksgiving. According to a poll from the Hill-HarrisX, 65 percent of Americans were not requiring masks or vaccines for their holiday gathering. 

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