While President Joe Biden is pushing harder with controversial vaccine mandates, he has not interfered with air travel. But, according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, the President has his reason.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Sept. 12, to discuss President Biden’s decision on his vaccine push, Murthy said air travel was spared from vaccine policies to facilitate emergencies for unvaccinated people.
“We know that when it comes to mandating vaccines for travel there are important issues around equity that would have to be worked out,” he said. Adding that it’s “to ensure that people, for example, if they have to travel in the case of emergency to see a relative who got sick, would be able to do that, even if you know they weren’t vaccinated.”
The President on Thursday announced his new six-part strategy to combat the Delta variant, which rocketed dramatically since July. A part of the strategy is a fee of $14,000 for private employers who do not have their staff either vaccinated or taking weekly testing.
“We have the tools to combat the virus if we can come together as a country and use those tools,” he said.
The new policy is expected to encompass an additional 80 million workers, as it aims at private organizations with over 100 employees.
“I think [it’s] an appropriate response for us to recognize that if we want our economy to be back, if we want our schools to stay in session, we’ve got to take steps to make sure workplaces and learning environments are safe and these requirements will help do that,” the surgeon general told ABC News.
The vaccine mandate does not spare 17 million health care workers and 4 million federal government employees and contractors from the weekly testing alternative.
“We know that these kinds of requirements actually work to improve our vaccination rates,” Murthy said.
The shots had been touted to be the most effective way to fend off COVID-19, aside from other uncomfortable options such as lockdowns and business closures. But they also come with potential risks of severe side effects such as blood clots and heart inflammation to a rare proportion of recipients.
Responding to the anger about the vaccine push, Murthy noted this was a critical time for unity, a similar call to President Biden.
“Our enemy is a virus, it is not one another,” Murthy said. “And what we have to do, is approach this next phase of the pandemic response, recognizing we’ve got to listen to each other, before we rush to judgment.”
“We’ve got to support one another in our decision making and during times of crisis,” he added.