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Fauci On Pilots’ Concern Amidst Lawsuit: ‘We Don’t Really See Any True Basis In That Concern’
Top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci responds to accusations by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., as he testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee about the origin of COVID-19, July 20, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Cases of COVID-19 have tripled over the past three weeks, and hospitalizations and deaths are rising among unvaccinated people.
J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

On Wednesday, amidst a lawsuit by the Southwest Airlines pilots to stop the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine job requirement from taking effect — a requirement that some pilots have reportedly argued could affect their ability to do their job if they were to experience side effects — Dr. Anthony Fauci weighed in on those concerns, saying, “We don’t really see any true basis in that concern.”

Speaking on a virtual call while accompanied by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Fauci was asked by a caller:

I have a question about airline pilots. Commercial airline pilots are held to pretty high physical fitness standards; they undergo medical evaluation every six months to maintain their medical certificate to fly. Pilots at American and Southwest Airlines in particular are arguing that some pilots may be reluctant to get vaccinated because of potential of career-ending side effects.

They note that FAA’s federal air surgeon has warned pilots not to fly for 48 hours after each shot because of the immediate side-effects. They’re concerned that there could be long-term side effects that could cause them to then lose their medical certification and also lose their jobs and their livelihoods. So is this a valid concern? What are the long-term side effects, if any, if a pilot is vaccinated?

“Well, right now on the basis of literally hundreds and hundreds of millions of vaccinations that we’ve had, the safety of these vaccines have been clearly established,” Fauci replied. “When you look at immediate reactogenicity, that’s what the airlines are talking about, about not having a person fly for, I believe, 24 to 48 hours after because we do know that it is not uncommon to get a sore arm or to maybe get a low-grade fever or some aches that almost invariably diminish and dissipate over a period of a couple of days.”

“The long-term effects that the people are apparently concerned about really have — I’m sure there is a very, very, very rare exception — but the long-term effects are really actually non-existent, in the sense of anything that has been a red flag on the part of the follow-up of these individuals,” he continued. “So although one, I guess, can theoretically say, ‘I’m concerned about a long-term effect,’ the fact of the safety and the follow-up over a considerable period of time, over a year as so many individuals, we have not really seen that. So we don’t really see any true basis in that concern.”

On Tuesday, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines stated they would defy Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order this week barring any employer in the state from requiring COVID-19 vaccines. Both of the airlines are based in Texas.

Abbott’s order countered guidance issued by the Biden administration in September that stated:

The Guidance applies to all covered contractor employees and to all contractor or subcontractor workplace locations. While at a Federal workplace, covered contractor employees must also comply with any additional agency workplace safety requirements for that workplace. Because covered contractor employees working on a covered contract need to be fully vaccinated after December 8, 2021, covered contractor employees who work only at a Federal workplace need to be fully vaccinated by that date as well, unless legally entitled to an accommodation.

“Southwest said it ‘would be expected to comply with the President’s Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor.’ American said while it was reviewing Abbott’s executive order, ‘this does not change anything’ for the company,’” Reuters reported, adding, “Both carriers have asked U.S.-based employees to submit proof of vaccination by Nov. 24.”

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