ICAO Joins WHO And Other Agencies Calling On Aircrew Vaccine Priority

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The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is joining a number of other UN agencies in calling for priority vaccinations for aircrew. The main argument underpinning this request is that vaccinating this sector of society will ensure the optimal operation of civil aviation networks and the global transport of essential shipments.

Etihad has started to operate flights where all crew members have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Photo: Etihad

Fostering economic recovery through global trade and mobility

As part of a March 26th statement, the ICAO joined four other UN organizations in its appeal for countries to prioritize both aircrew and maritime workers. The other organizations included the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This appeal came in the form of a joint statement, signed by the respective head of each UN body.

The statement says that maritime and air transport are essential activities underpinning global trade and mobility, and key to a sustainable socio-economic recovery and points out that travel restrictions – particularly on workers in air and sea transportation- have raised costs while limiting important mobility:

“As the Joint Statement draws attention to, the application of stringent public health rules to these key workers, including quarantine, has resulted in hindered connectivity, operational complexity, and significant costs.” – Dr. Fang Liu, Secretary General, ICAO, via statement.

The ICAO notes that in 2019, air transport carried about 5.7 billion passengers, and airfreight pre-pandemic represented 35% of the value of goods shipped in all modes combined.

Aircrew have indeed been key players in distributing vaccines across the world. Photo: Getty Images

Therefore, the ICAO and its fellow organizations is calling on governments to prioritize maritime workers and aircrew in their national COVID-19 vaccination programs. The organization would like to see air and sea workers grouped together with other essential workers, “in accordance with the WHO SAGE Roadmap for prioritizing the use of COVID-19 vaccines.”

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Joint statement advises against vaccination as entry requirement

Another portion of the Joint Statement came out against proof of vaccination for international travel, as a condition of entry. This was advice came via the WHO, which explained that this was due to both the critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission, and the limited global availability of vaccine doses.

ICAO statistics notes that pre-pandemic licensed aviation professionals, including pilots, air traffic controllers, and licensed maintenance technicians, totaled approximately 887,000. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

However, many countries are moving ahead with implementing entry policies that at least make vaccination a condition to avoid a 10-14 day quarantine. The majority of countries with this type of arrivals policy are in Europe, and include:

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  • Estonia
  • Iceland
  • Greece
  • Poland
  • Romania

The article on this particular topic can be found here.

In the end it will be up to each country to decide what level of priority air (and sea) crew will have when it comes to getting their vaccinations. Politics may also be a determining factor, as various groups fight for their place in the vaccination line-up.

Do you think aircrew should have the same level of priority as other essential workers? Should they be on the same level as, for example, grocery store workers? Or would you consider them a higher or a lower priority? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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