The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has authorized pilots and air traffic controllers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, subject to certain conditions. The authorization comes as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared a vaccine.
FAA clears pilots and air traffic controllers to receive the vaccine
On December 12th, the day after the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine, the FAA ruled that pilots and FAA Air Traffic Controllers, subject to medical clearance, may also receive the vaccine.
The FAA, however, is mandating certain conditions. The agency will require aviation professionals with medical certifications or medical clearances to take 48 hours as an observation period after the vaccination.
This means that, after getting a vaccination, pilots and air traffic controllers have to wait for 48 hours before conducting safety-sensitive aviation duties. This includes flying and controlling air traffic.
The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, 21 days apart. The 48-hour waiting period applies after each dose.
At this time, the FAA has not made a determination for cabin crew. Similar standards may apply later, given how flight attendants still have a major role in ensuring inflight safety.
Setting standards for safety
The FAA does not anticipate it will take additional measures to ensure safety after the initial window for side effects closes. However, that could change as the FAA’s medical professionals will be monitoring the initial distribution of the vaccine and documented clinical results.
The authorization only applies to the Pfizer vaccine. It will be evaluating vaccines from other manufacturers as the FDA approves them for emergency use. The FAA will decide on what waiting periods or steps professionals will need to take after receiving the vaccine.
Such standards, however, are not new from the FAA. Similar waiting periods apply for the administration of other vaccinations, like tuberculosis and typhoid.
The FAA is doing this out of an abundance of caution. Vaccine side effects can include fatigue and headaches, which can impact a person’s ability to do their job safely. One of the worst things that could happen is for fatigue to incapacitate a pilot on short final or takeoff or an air traffic controller who similarly becomes incapacitated by fatigue.
Pilots and controllers will not jump ahead in line
The FAA will not be pushing pilots or air traffic controllers ahead of others in line to take the vaccine. Pilots and controllers will need to work with their healthcare providers to determine when they will receive a vaccination.
Airlines and airports will also likely try to get involved to make sure their pilots and controllers, respectively, are not out of commission in a high volume at once. It will take time for everyone to get vaccinated.
Pilots and controllers, however, will still be playing an integral role in vaccine distribution. Already, cargo carriers FedEx and UPS have jumped into action and started to ferry the vaccine around through cold storage facilities to healthcare providers.
Are you glad to see the FAA authorize pilots and ATC personnel to receive the vaccine? Let us know in the comments!