Dr. Ashish Jha Calls for a Vaccine Mandate for Air Travel

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health says it is time for officials to institute vaccine mandates for air travel.  The doctor said he arrived at this decision after an encounter on a flight from Los Angeles to Boston where a passenger with a mask that was “barely” covering her mouth ended up in the seat next to him. “Sitting next to someone who is essentially maskless wasn’t great,” Jha said. “Truth is, if your nose isn’t covered, you really aren’t wearing a mask.” The passenger then struck up a conversation with him discussing why she refused to get vaccinated; throughout the conversation, Dr. Jha had to ask her to pull up her mask and this seemed to annoy her. “We sat inches apart for a 5 1/2 hour flight with her variably masked,” Jha said. “I don’t love sitting next to an unvaccinated, unmasked person for hours. Why do I care? I’d rather not get a breakthrough infection.”

Masks are required on buses, trains, planes, and other public transportation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends delaying travel for those who are not fully vaccinated. As for unvaccinated travelers, the agency advises getting tested for COVID-19 one to three days before your departure, wearing a mask during your trip, and getting tested 3 to 5 days after your travel while also staying home and self-quarantining for seven days.

The problem, Dr. Jha points out, is that there is very little one can do on planes or other spaces where the air is shared by strangers for what could end up being long periods of time.

“Canada has done it. We should too. Mandate vaccine or negative test for air travel.”  He said he recognizes the woman seated next to him on the plane had “the freedom” not to get vaccinated. But he argued that the older man seated on her other side wearing a cloth mask has “the right to fly without getting infected.”