As the COVID-19 vaccination program gets underway in many countries, a few flaws are emerging. Among them are inconsistent rules between different countries about who is first in line for the jab. In many countries, pilots who transport the COVID-19 vaccination are not yet vaccinated themselves. It’s a scenario some industry insiders are saying is not good enough.
Unvaccinated pilots delivering vaccines not good enough says pilot’s group
A report by Roger Rapoport in StatNews yesterday quoted Robert Travis, president of the United Kingdom-based Independent Pilots Association. Captain Travis was specifically speaking about pilots who flew for freight airlines.
“Ironically, for the last few months, UPS pilots have been proudly flying lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines onboard on their aircraft,” Captain Travis said. “Yet these same pilots do not have a priority for voluntarily receiving the vaccine.”
UPS has a fleet of 262 aircraft in service. The freight business is doing a brisk business flying the COVID-19 vaccine around the world. Just last week, UPS freighters began landing the vaccine in South Korea. Competitor FedEx is also gearing up for a busy summer flying the vaccine. To date, in North America alone, FedEx has shipped COVID-19 vaccines across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C.
“As vaccine production ramps up and more vaccines are approved, we expect to see a significant uptick in COVID-19 vaccine and supply kit volume moving through our network,” said FedEx CEO Don Colleran earlier this week.
But it’s not just freight airlines flying the vaccine around the globe. Many passenger airlines are also filling the belly space in their planes with the COVID-19 vaccine.
Different vaccination rules & prioritization in different countries
A problem is different airlines and different crews are based in different countries. And different countries have different rules about who is first in line for the COVID-19 vaccine. Singapore Airlines also ships the vaccine around its network.
But the Singaporean government has prioritized the aviation sector in the country’s vaccination exercise. Fully vaccinated crews now operate all Singapore Airlines Group flights. Likewise, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways only operate flights with fully vaccinated crews. It’s a similar deal at Emirates.
In North America and Europe, the situation is somewhat different. The United States-based carriers all encourage their pilots to get the jab. The United States had prioritized frontline healthcare workers and older residents in aged care facilities. A couple of months into the vaccine rollout in the United States, more than 15% of the population have received the vaccination. But many pilots who fly the vaccine remain unvaccinated.
“Watching big containers being unloaded with the vaccines you can’t have makes you want to call your congressman. Unlike us, they’ve been vaccinated,” one pilot told StatNews.
What do you think? Should pilots move up the priority list when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccination? Post a comment and let us know.