House Democrat Introduces Domestic US Air Travel Vaccine Passport Bill

By Author:
2,216 0
Then-Representative-elect Ritchie Torres (D-NY) arrives at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill on November 12, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Torres introduced a bill on August 6 that would require passengers on all flights originating from or arriving in the United States to show their vaccine passport papers.
Then-Representative-elect Ritchie Torres (D-NY) arrives at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill on November 12, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Torres introduced a bill on August 6 that would require passengers on all flights originating from or arriving in the United States to show their vaccine passport papers. (Image: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

On Aug. 6, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) introduced legislation that would require all U.S. air travellers to show their papers for proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The move was mostly unreported by the media. 

HR 4980, if passed, would “Direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that any individual traveling on a flight that departs from or arrives to an airport inside the United States or a territory of the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID–19,” according to the Resolution’s preamble.

If the bill is enacted, the HHS will be directed to utilize the TSA to, “Take such actions as are necessary to ensure that any individual traveling on a flight that departs from or arrives to an airport inside the United States or a territory of the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID–19.”

In practice, this will result in all travelers being required to show their papers through some form of vaccine passport, whether a paper record or a China-style QR Code. Those who cannot produce proof of vaccination will be excluded from internal or external air travel.

A similar move was recently announced by Canada’s ruling Liberal Party government on August 13 when Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra announced during a video conference from his office that all interprovincial air and train travellers would be required to show their papers to utilize public infrastructure. 

HR 4980 does makes allowances for individuals who are, “ineligible or medically unable to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

The bill defines the term “fully vaccinated against COVID-19″ as, “Means receiving all recommended doses of a COVID–19 vaccine that is licensed under section 351 of the Public Health Service Act…or authorized for emergency use under section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”

This clause is noteworthy even for the double vaccinated as governments around the world have made it clear boosters are coming as the efficacy of the current experimental and all-new mRNA and Adenovirus Vector double-stranded DNA injections from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson have shown to be ineffective or even problematic against the Delta Variant.

As for the current position of U.S. government on the requirements for booster shots, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said on Aug. 18 during a virtual press conference, “I think what’s very important for people to know is that if you’ve gotten both shots of your mRNA vaccine, you are fully vaccinated.”

Murthy did add the words “right now” as a caveat to the end of his sentence, however. Later in the presser, the Surgeon General made it clear, “We believe that that third dose will ultimately be needed to provide the fullest and continual extent of protection that we think people need from the virus.”

An Aug. 3 opinion piece published in The Atlantic titled Unvaccinated People Need to Bear the Burden, by Obama-era Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem, pulled no punches as it advocated openly for a no-fly list to be established for the unvaccinated. 

The subhead of the article opened, “Beyond limiting the coronavirus’s flow from hot spots to the rest of the country, allowing only vaccinated people on domestic flights will change minds, too.”

The most poignant portion of the article is as follows:

While flying, vaccinated people should no longer carry the burden for unvaccinated people. The White House has rejected a nationwide vaccine mandate—a sweeping suggestion that the Biden administration could not easily enact if it wanted to—but a no-fly list for unvaccinated adults is an obvious step that the federal government should take. It will help limit the risk of transmission at destinations where unvaccinated people travel—and, by setting norms that restrict certain privileges to vaccinated people, will also help raise the stagnant vaccination rates that are keeping both the economy and society from fully recovering.

The introduction of HR 4980 shows little to no news results on Google and DuckDuckGo as of time of writing. However, New York Daily News, a tabloid and the fifth largest print paper in New York City according to Agility PR Solutions, quoted Rep. Torres, a 33-year-old Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, as equating the Delta Variant of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus which causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), to the same flight security risks as weapons.

“The TSA never allows people to enter planes or airports with a weapon, and the delta variant is a weapon…It is a threat to everyone in an airport and everyone on a plane,” he said.

Torres added the measures were a question of getting more forceful with vaccine acceptance, “We’ve seen the limitations of purely voluntary vaccinations…It will only take us so far.”

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.