President Joe Biden caused quite a stir when he announced new vaccine mandates on Sept. 9. Under his new order, large employers, health care workers, and federal employees are now required to be fully vaccinated or face serious consequences, such as heavy fines or termination. Some state officials have already attempted to push back against these new requirements, but so far the president seems undeterred. And while the White House's new policy is already requiring millions more people to be vaccinated nationwide, the administration is reportedly considering other major vaccination mandates.
On Sept. 15, White House COVID response coordinator Jeffrey Zients revealed that the administration is "exploring vaccination requirements for foreign nationals traveling to the United States," USA Today reported. The adviser told the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board that advises Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that this may be part of a "new system" the White House is looking to roll out for regulating international travel.
"The American people need to trust that the new system for international travel is safer even as we—I mean at that point—we'll be letting in more travelers," Zients said, per Reuters, adding that his new system will utilize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well. "We will also be putting in place contact tracing to enable CDC to follow up with inbound international travelers and those around them if someone has potentially been exposed to COVID-19," he said.
Until a new system is enacted, current travel restrictions for the U.S. will remain in place because of the country's recent increase in COVID cases. "We want to move to a metrics-based system," Raimondo said. "Before we can do that, we have to get a better handle on the domestic situation, which requires us to get everyone vaccinated."
According to the U.S. Department of State, most non-Americans who have been present in more than 30 countries, including China, Iran, the U.K., Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, India, and other major European countries, at any point within the past 14 days are currently barred from entering the U.S, as of Sept. 15. "Several Presidential proclamations established restrictions on the entry of certain travelers into the United States in an effort to help slow the spread of coronavirus disease 2019," the CDC states.
This new mandate would only affect people coming to the U.S., but the White House has also been discussing a plan that would affect Americans who want to fly internationally as well, The Washington Post reported on Sept. 14. Implementing a vaccine mandate for international air travel has been a debate among White House officials for weeks, but it was not added to the administration's most recent sweep of vaccine mandates. According to the news outlet, some aides argue that the U.S. should join forces with other countries that already require vaccinations to fly, but others maintain that mandates work best when they require individuals only to show proof of vaccination once, like for a workplace, rather than repeatedly, like every time they board a plane.
Top White House officials say that the proposal for requiring vaccinations for international travel is still under consideration, as well as a similar, and potentially, broader vaccine mandate that would include domestic air travel. "We're discussing it," Anthony Fauci, MD, the White House's chief medical adviser, said about the idea of a broader requirement in an interview with the Post. "It's on the table for discussion."
Fauci recently acknowledged that he was personally in favor of the idea. "I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people, that you should be vaccinated," he said during a Sept. 12 interview for theSkimm's podcast.