Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday floated the possibility of a vaccine mandate for domestic airline travel in order to coerce more Americans to become vaccinated against COVID-19.
Fauci's comments directly contradict President Joe Biden, who told ABC News in an interview last week that his administration does not believe a vaccine mandate for airline travelers is necessary — at least not right now.
What did Fauci say?
During an interview on ABC News' "This Week," Fauci was asked whether he agrees with Biden. In response, Fauci suggested he would support a vaccine mandate for domestic air travelers if it forces more people to get vaccinated.
"A vaccine requirement for a person getting on the plane is just another level of getting people to have a mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated; namely, you can't get on a plane unless you're vaccinated, which is just another one of the ways of getting requirements, whatever that might be," Fauci admitted.
"So I mean, anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome," he added.
The admission was not the first time Fauci has advocated coercive means to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates.
Last December, Fauci told the New York Times that he altered his prediction for the COVID-19 herd immunity threshold several times — each time increasing his prediction — because he wanted to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated. At the time, the COVID-19 vaccine was not yet widely available.
"When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent. Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, 'I can nudge this up a bit,' so I went to 80, 85," Fauci told the newspaper last year.
During his interview on "This Week," Fauci also seemingly downplayed the positive news stemming from data that suggest the Omicron variant, while more contagious, is less virulent.
"The issue that we don't want to get complacent about is that when you have such a high volume of new infections, it might override a real diminution in severity so that if you have many, many, many more people with less level of severity, that might kind of neutralize the positive effect of having less severity when you have so many more people," Fauci said.
"So even though we're pleased by the evidence from multiple countries, that it looks like there is a lesser degree of severity, we've got to be careful that we don't get complacent about that because it might still lead to a lot of hospitalizations in the United States," he added.
Fauci, however, did not balance his comments by noting the other possibility, namely that Omicron might not lead to a lot of hospitalizations in the U.S.