A top US pilot union wants to ensure pilots can get jabbed with the Covid-19 vaccine – and not lose their medical certificates.
The Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) is urging the Federal Aviation Administration to approve the vaccine for use by flight crews, and to ensure pilots get priority vaccine access.
“Airline pilots are required to maintain medical certification from the FAA, but approval for use of the vaccine is required by the agency before it can be administered to flight crews,” ALPA says in a 9 December letter to US senators.
“It is essential that the FAA approve this vaccine for use by airline pilots as soon as possible following” the vaccine’s approval by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
An FDA decision on whether to approve Pfizer’s vaccine is viewed as imminent. The UK government has already approved the vaccine.
ALPA sent the letter to members of the Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation, which held a 10 December hearing about distributing the Covid vaccine.
The union says pilots of cargo aircraft “have experienced an alarming increase in Covid-19 exposure and infections”.
“It is critical that, following the initial distribution, airline pilots are provided priority access to the vaccine,” ALPA says. “Ensuring this prioritisation will allow the logistical component of transporting the vaccine to continue unencumbered.”
ALPA has for weeks been working “to expedite the FAA’s approval of upcoming vaccines for flight crews”, it adds.
The FAA says it “is closely monitoring the active vaccine trials and awaiting the outcome” of vaccine-related hearings currently underway by an FDA advisory panel.
“While the agency has made no final decisions, we are prepared to evaluate the use of each vaccine by medical certificate holders as soon as an emergency-use authorisation is issued,” the FAA says.
The agency “historically” does not approve vaccines or medications for pilots for at least one year after approval by the FDA.
“However, given the nature of the current public health emergency, the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine will expedite its review of the emergency-use authorisations for the vaccines,” the FAA says.