Dr. Anthony Fauci said “I’m sure” some individual institutions will make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory, while it is “quite possible” that the COVID-19 vaccine could become a required travel vaccine when visiting other countries.
Speaking to Newsweek, America’s top infectious disease expert said: “Everything will be on the table for discussion” when asked if he will be discussing the possibility of introducing COVID-19 vaccine passports and potential mandatory vaccinations at a local level, including in schools, in his role as chief medical adviser to President-elect Biden.
The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) noted: “It’s not up to me to make a decision. But these are all things that will be discussed [under the Biden administration].”
Could COVID-19 vaccines become mandatory?
The immunologist doesn’t believe there will be a national COVID-19 vaccine mandate because “we almost never mandate things federally [with regards to health],” he told Newsweek.
“I’m not sure it’s [the COVID-19 vaccine] going to be mandatory from a central government standpoint, like federal government mandates. But there are going to be individual institutions that I’m sure are going to mandate it.
“For example, influenza and Hepatitis B vaccines are mandated at many hospitals. Here at the NIH [National Institutes of Health], I would not be allowed to see patients if I didn’t get vaccinated every year with flu and get vaccinated once with Hepatitis [B]. I have to get certified every year…if I didn’t, I couldn’t see patients.
“So in that regard I would not be surprised, as we get into the full scope of [COVID-19] vaccination, that some companies, some hospitals, some organizations might require [COVID-19] vaccination,” the White House COVID-19 task force told Newsweek.
Could COVID-19 vaccines be mandatory for school? The infectious diseases expert believes “That is possible but that’s something that’s mandated at the state level and city level. A citywide school system might require it in some cities but not other cities. And that’s what I mean by things not being done centrally but locally.”
Will COVID-19 vaccine passports be issued in the U.S.?
In mid-December, Israel announced it will be issuing a “green passport” to residents who have received the COVID-19 vaccine. The passport will lift some restrictions, including mandatory quarantine following exposure to an infected person, and allow residents to travel abroad without having to be tested for the virus, as currently required.
Could a COVID-19 vaccine passport be issued in the U.S.? The White House COVID-19 task force member said: “Anything is on the table. Anything is possible, of course.”
The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the percentage of adult Americans who would or would not get a COVID-19 vaccine.
What we still don’t know about COVID-19
Ask whether those who do get vaccinated can still pass the virus onto others, Fauci told Newsweek: “That’s a good question. We don’t know that yet. We do not know if the vaccines that prevent clinical disease also prevent infection. They very well might, but we have not proven that yet.
Given this unknown, asked if issuing vaccine passports could potentially encourage people to let their guard down and ignore public health safety measures, such as social distancing and limiting travel, Fauci said: “Exactly, they [people might] do anything they want to do [once they’ve been vaccinated].
“That’s the reason why I keep saying that even though you get vaccinated, we should not eliminate, at all, public health measures like wearing masks because we don’t know yet what the effect [of the vaccine] is on transmissibility,” he told Newsweek.
What else do we not know about the virus? “We don’t know what we don’t know,” Fauci said.
“We don’t know that vaccinating people prevents infection. We certainly know that it [vaccination] prevents symptomatic disease, we don’t know if it prevents infection,” he added.
Could the COVID-19 vaccine become a travel vaccine?
Asked if COVID-19 vaccination could become a standard travel vaccine, such as with yellow fever, for traveling to other countries, Fauci said: “That is quite possible.”
Would this be a good move? “Well, you know, of course [it would be good for COVID-19 to become a standard travel vaccine]. I mean if everybody gets vaccinated, of course that’s good.
“But yellow fever’s a good example. So we, in this country, don’t require [people] to get a yellow fever vaccine when you go [to] some place. It’s the place to which you are going that requires it.
“I went to Liberia during the ebola outbreak. I had to get my yellow fever vaccine or they would not let me into Liberia.”
The wider picture
The novel coronavirus has infected more than 82.9 million people, including just over 19.7 million in the U.S., since it was first reported in Wuhan, China.
More than 1.8 million people have died worldwide and more than 46.8 million have recovered as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The graphic below, produced by Statista, shows the countries with the highest death tolls.