Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed the coronavirus vaccine safe for use, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chooses to err on the side of caution.
The FAA authorized the use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for pilots and air traffic controllers last Dec. 19. However, the FAA required a 48-hour wait period before pilots and controllers could begin “conducting safety-sensitive aviation duties,” similar to what the agency did with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The policy was released a day after the FDA granted emergency use authorization for mRNA-1273 or the Moderna vaccine.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine received FDA authorization on Dec. 11 and the FAA permitted its use on Dec. 12.
The FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine said: “Holders of FAA-issued Airman Medical Certificates or Medical Clearances may receive the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. However, a 48-hour no fly/no [safety-related] duty interval must be observed after each dose.”
The FAA advised inoculated pilots and air traffic controllers that they are forbidden from performing flight crewmember duties or air traffic control duties if they don’t “meet medical certification requirements, including those related to adverse events from medications that render them unable to perform such duties.”
While the FDA authorizes additional vaccines, the FAA evaluates and releases policies. The FAA emphasized that it will strictly observe the patient response to both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The agency added that it may adjust the policy as needed “to ensure aviation safety.”
Air traffic controllers and pilots helped ship the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last Dec. 13. Both Houston Mills, who is an Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) member and UPS Inc. Vice President of Flight Operations and Safety, and first officer Neal Newell safely flew the cargo from Lansing, Michigan, to Louisville, Kentucky.
AOPA President Mark Baker praised pilots and air traffic controllers who are at the forefront of the fight against the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as they delivered personal protective equipment and the vaccines.
“I am pleased the FAA is acting quickly to evaluate and allow pilots and controllers to take either of the FDA-approved vaccines and return to work and flying after a short period,” concluded Baker.
Back in December, the FAA sent guidance to airports to prepare for vaccine distribution.