You’re reading Our View, one of two perspectives in Today’s Debate.
For the Opposing View by the U.S. Travel Association, read Don't burden airline passengers with vaccine mandate.
The nation remains locked in a life or death debate with 66 million Americans over the rightness of being vaccinated against COVID-19.
About half of the unvaccinated – an estimated 12% to 18% of eligible Americans – stubbornly refuse the shot for reasons ranging from distrust of government or health institutions, to an embrace of conspiracies, to a fear of needles. The rest of the holdouts are those who simply haven't gotten around to it (a dwindling percentage), are in still a wait-and-see frame of mind or will be vaccinated only if required to do so.
Sixty-six million unvaccinated people are more than enough to fuel another surge in infections as winter approaches, and they carry the added risk of generating a variant capable of rendering vaccines less effective.
President Joe Biden has rightly mandated vaccines for federal workers and the military and is attempting to do the same for large businesses through federal workplace health-safety requirements. He could do more, as we wrote in July, and require vaccinations for domestic flights that carry 2 million passengers per day and an anticipated 2.5 million daily during the upcoming holidays.
Vaccine mandates work
The reality is that mandates work. And that's despite complaints from those who argue that mandates violate Americans' individual liberties. (None other than the American Civil Liberties Union argues the opposite is true.)
Among the many examples of mandate efficacy is United Airlines, which last month required vaccinations of its 67,000 employees on penalty of being fired. All but 232 complied.
More mandates, including for domestic air travel, could compel holdouts who will take the shot only if forced to do so.
The United States already requires international travelers entering the country to show proof of a negative test result and will start requiring proof of vaccination starting Nov. 8. Canada will start mandating shots for domestic flights later this month. Much has been made of the filtered air on flights and existing mask mandates. But passengers are crammed together on planes, and masks are helpful only when worn properly and not taken off for meals.
Require vaccination or negative COVID-19 test
What's unclear is why Biden has refrained from ordering a vaccination mandate for domestic air travel. The nation's top infectious disease expert and presidential adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said in September he would support it, although he has since appeared to back off from that opinion.
Federal legislation that would require vaccination or negative testing has been introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. But action is needed now.
While COVID-19 infections are mercifully tracking downward and 57% of the population is fully vaccinated, infections among children remain exceptionally high, and about 1,300 Americans die each day from a disease that is all but preventable if they had been vaccinated.
Air travel is a funnel point through which millions of Americans pass each week. Requiring vaccinations would save lives and help to end the pandemic.
USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff and the USA TODAY Network. Most editorials are coupled with an Opposing View, a unique USA TODAY feature.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: New COVID mandate: Require air passengers to show proof of vaccination