US approves use of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for pilots, air traffic controllers

A United Airlines plane takes off above American Airlines planes on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Saturday (Dec 12) it had approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by pilots and air traffic controllers.

The US aviation regulator said pilots and controllers must not fly or conduct safety-related duties for 48 hours after receiving doses.

The FAA said it will "monitor the patient response to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and may adjust this policy as necessary to ensure aviation safety."

The FAA added that additional vaccines will each be evaluated as emergency use authorisations are issued by the Food and Drug Administration.

Airlines and unions are still working out how to administer the vaccine to pilots and flight attendants once it becomes available to their group, and preparing for the possibility that some countries require crew to be vaccinated before flying there, people familiar with the matter said.

On Friday, the FAA sent guidance to airports to prepare for vaccine distribution, including other facilities that may serve as alternate or diversion airports.

The FAA noted that some aircraft used for vaccine shipments may be larger than the aircraft used for passenger-carrying flights that typically serve that airport and operators may opt to have extra aircraft rescue and firefighting services.

The FAA also urged airports coordinate with local air traffic control facilities before and during vaccine transport flight's movement on the airfield.

The FAA said airports should grant priority access to the airfield for freight vehicles to safely move shipments of Covid-19 vaccines off-airport and contingency plans in case the shipment cannot proceed according to the anticipated schedule.

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