The Biden Administration has praised the Covid vaccine entry requirement for travelers to the US – raising fears the controversial curb could stay beyond May 11.
Republicans have been trying to use their new powers in the GOP-controlled House to have the measure scrapped because there is no public data showing it has reduced infections or deaths.
But the White House yesterday praised the policy in a statement for having ‘allowed loved ones across the globe to reunite while reducing the spread of Covid and the burdens it places on the health care system in the United States’.
It is still unclear if the measure will be scrapped in May when the coronavirus public health emergency is due to expire along with the majority of the remaining restrictions and laws.
Despite its continued support for the policy, the Biden Administration did acknowledge that the country was approaching ‘the end of the public health emergency,’ and that it would let science guide ‘any termination or modification’ of any given policy.
As shown by the graph above, introducing proof of vaccination for travelers on November 8, 2021 did not stem the influx of Covid cases from the Omicron variant during winter last year. In a statement yesterday the Biden Administration praised the vaccine mandate for ‘reducing the spread of Covid’
Travelers wait in line for TSA security screening at Orlando International Airport in July 2021. The US Covid vaccine mandate was brought in four months later amid the Omicron wave that sent infection rates rocketing globally
The Covid vaccine passport requires all non-US citizens to prove they have received at least two vaccine doses — or an accepted single-dose shot like Johnson and Johnson‘s — before entering the country.
Last month, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. introduced HR 185 — a bill which would stop the enforcement of the mandate.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandate was originally brought in in November 2021 amid the Omicron wave that sent infection rates rocketing globally, when dozens of countries put similar restrictions in place.
America has extended the order multiple times, most recently quietly last month to keep it in place until April 10.
Critics of the Covid vaccine passport said it is a ‘double standard’ when many American citizens and Congress members are not fully vaccinated.
Mr Massie said in a statement on January 12: ‘If you watched C-SPAN last week, you saw 434 Members of Congress gathered in the Capitol screaming, yelling, cheering, and speaking. Many of these members are unvaccinated, and many haven’t taken boosters.
‘So, why do we subject visitors who want to see their families to this Covid-19 double standard? The CDC’s unscientific mandate is separating too many people from their families and has been doing so for far too long. It needs to end.’
Experts have increasingly accepted that Covid vaccines – while highly effective at preventing severe illness – do not stop infections very well.
Most countries ditched so-called ‘vaccine passports’ months ago when they failed to keep infections low, making the US an outlier in the West.
Virtually all European countries, including the UK, have ditched the measure. Only a handful of nations have kept them, mainly in the Middle East and Africa.
President Joe Biden gave his second State of the Union address Tuesday night. He said: ‘Two years ago, Covid had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much. Today, Covid no longer controls our lives’
The most effective Covid shots – like Moderna’s and Pfizer’s – are estimated to give up to 90 percent protection against death in the months after vaccination.
However, the rapid rate at which the virus has mutated over the past year has made it difficult to figure out exactly how effective the shots are.
Experts agree, whatever the figure, the vaccines have had a hugely protective effect, saving an estimated 3million American lives and preventing 19m hospitalizations.
But the shots are significantly less effective at stopping transmission, dropping efficacy below 30 percent three months after immunization.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, admitted last year the shots ‘can’t prevent transmission anymore’.
The Biden Administration dropped the requirement for international travelers to the US to provide a negative Covid test last June, but does not appear ready to budge on the shots.
It means, technically, people can fly into the US even if they are positive for the virus — so long as they are vaccinated.
The policy also means unvaccinated US citizens can enter the country, as long as they show proof a negative test taken a day before travelling.
The Administration acknowledged in its statement that ‘Covid-19 is no longer the disruptive threat that it once was’.
It promised to ‘review all relevant policies’, including the vaccine passport requirement, come May 11.
The statement said: ‘Just as the establishment of this public health policy was guided by science, any termination or modification of this policy should be as well.’
It added that a vote for Mr Massie’s HR 185 bill ‘undercuts that critical principle’.