The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is still debating whether or not pilots who take a COVID vaccine will be able to keep their medical certificates.
In an email to aviation news outlet AvWeb, the FAA said they are “…closely monitoring the active vaccine trials and awaiting the outcome of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee’s scheduled meeting next week.” They added that “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 authorization is issued.”
The meeting the FAA refers to in the email to AvWeb was set to conclude yesterday, so a decision or further clarification may be available soon.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), according to a recent post on their website, is also working with the FAA on getting clarification. However, until more is known, they are recommending members not receive a vaccine shot, as it would disqualify pilots medicals for an indefinite period:
“Although clinical trials are under way for a COVID-19 vaccine, there are currently no known effective vaccines or therapeutics. And since no trial COVID-19 vaccine has full FDA approval, the FAA considers participation in COVID-19 vaccine trials medically disqualifying for pilots for an indefinite period. ALPA representatives are working with the FAA to better define a policy as the science evolves. In Canada, the director of Civil Aviation Medicine stated that participation in medical trials isn’t considered compatible with aviation medical certification.“
ALPA instead recommends focusing on personal health, and getting a regular flu shot, saying that “While a healthy lifestyle—including eating right, exercising, maintaining a reasonable weight, and getting enough sleep—may not prevent infection by either virus, establishing these routines can contribute to a stronger immune system, which can help fight these diseases and potentially limit the risk of experiencing more serious symptoms. Combining these healthy habits with getting a flu shot and continuing to practice social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing remain the best protection.“
According to FlightGlobal, “The agency “historically” does not approve vaccines or medications for pilots for at least one year after approval by the FDA.” ALPA and other groups are urging the FAA to approve a vaccine for use by airline pilots and flight crews as soon as possible.