White House opposes bill to lift foreign air visitor vaccination rule
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said Tuesday it opposes legislation before Congress that would end a requirement that most foreign air travelers be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The House of Representatives is set to vote on the bill on Wednesday.
The Biden administration in June dropped its requirement that people arriving in the country by air must test negative for COVID but has not lifted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination requirements.
"This policy has allowed loved ones across the globe to reunite while reducing the spread of COVID-19 and the burdens it places on the health care system in the United States," the White House said.
Currently, adult visitors to the United States who are not citizens or permanent residents must show proof of vaccination before boarding their flight, with some limited exceptions.
Republican Representative Thomas Massie introduced the measure to rescind the vaccine requirement. "The CDC's unscientific mandate is separating too many people from their families and has been doing so for far too long. It needs to end," he said on Twitter.
The White House plans to end the COVID public health emergency on May 11. "As we approach the end of the public health emergency, the administration will review all relevant policies, including this one," the White House said.
The CDC says vaccines continue to be the most important public health tool for fighting COVID-19 and recommends all travelers be vaccinated.
The U.S. Travel Association said it has "long supported the removal of this requirement" and added that the United States "is the only country that still has this requirement for international visitors when there is no longer any public health justification."
Mask requirements on airplanes were relaxed last year after a judge declared them unlawful.
In December, the United States imposed mandatory negative COVID test requirements on most travelers from China as COVID infections rocketed there. The House on Wednesday will consider an amendment to make clear CDC authority to impose testing would not be affected.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis)