Aviation workers should be given priority for COVID-19 vaccines

December 22, 2020

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) welcome progress in the development of vaccines for COVID-19. As vaccines continue to be approved and distributed worldwide, aviation workers will play a key role in the integrity of their global supply chain. An effective global vaccine strategy will rely on the availability of healthy, rested and trained flight crews and other aviation workers.

IFALPA and ITF call for aviation workers to be given priority for vaccination against COVID-19, once health care workers and vulnerable groups have been protected.

In addition to providing a level of protection for crew members, it is anticipated that States will require proof of vaccination for entry. Timely vaccination for aviation workers will help to ensure they are able to continue to operate the cargo and passenger flights that form important links in the global supply chain, particularly for workers that have critical safety, security or customer-facing roles.

This position is consistent with World Health Organization’s SAGE group’s recommendations in the Roadmap For Prioritizing Uses Of COVID-19 Vaccines. This roadmap identifies priority populations for vaccination based on epidemiologic settings and vaccine supplies. Health workers and high-risk persons are prioritised, after which transport workers along with other key workers outside of the health and education sectors are recommended for priority.

Vaccination will also serve as one pathway for further removal of exemptions and alleviations to current safety standards which had been granted due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. ICAO recommends that such exemptions not be extended beyond 31 March 2021. It should be noted that other mitigation measure can be taken to enable the return to normal safety standards, even if the supply of vaccine does not allow for the prioritisation of aviation workers before 31 March 2021.

Last month the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced it had kickstarted discussions with more than 350 partners, including major airlines, shipping lines and logistics associations from around the world, to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to over 92 countries. IFALPA and ITF will be proud to support these efforts but see the vaccination of aviation and other transport workers as critical to these and other efforts to deliver the life-saving vaccines without interruption as doses become available.

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