Fauci on domestic air travel mandate: Anything to get people more vaccinated 'would be welcome'

Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said Sunday, "anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome" when asked about what he thinks of the notion of domestic air travel vaccine mandates. 

In an appearance on ABC News's "This Week," co-anchor Jonathan Karl asked Fauci if he agreed with President BidenJoe BidenFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better MORE who said in a recent interview that his team said vaccine mandates for domestic air travel "isn't necessary at this time."

Fauci told Karl, "Well, it depends on what you want to use it for. I mean, vaccine requirements for people coming in from other countries is to prevent newly infected people from getting in to 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. 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," he added.

Fauci emphasized that "anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome."

He also continued to reiterate that wearing masks on planes is still a good idea despite airline CEO's saying they were not always necessary due to sufficient air filtration systems inside aircraft.

"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.

Fauci’s comments follow an airline executive's comments on Capitol Hill that masks "don’t add much" given that "99.97 percent of airborne pathogens are captured" by highly efficient filtration systems.

"Yeah, 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 in response to whether maskless air travel could ever resume. "It’s very safe, and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting."

Kelly later tested positive for COVID-19 following the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on airline oversight last week, the company told Reuters on Friday. 

Kelly testified alongside the president of the nation’s largest flight attendant union and executives at United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. The hearing examined the impact of $54 billion in pandemic aid Congress gave to airlines. 

"I think the case is very strong that masks don't add much if anything in the air cabin environment,” Kelly told senators Wednesday. "It's very safe, very high quality compared to any other indoor setting."

Currently, fully vaccinated international travelers are permitted to enter the U.S. as long as they show proof of inoculation and present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 24 hours of their flight. 

Travelers can be inoculated with the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, all of which are authorized in the U.S., in addition to shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, including AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm and Sinovac, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.