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FAA permits Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, requires 48-hour no-fly period

Vaccine approved for pilots, air traffic controllers

Pilots and air traffic controllers can receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but they cannot fly or control air traffic for 48 hours after each dose, the FAA said in a policy statement released December 12.

The FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine said that it reviewed available data regarding safety profiles associated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that the Food and Drug Administration approved December 11 under emergency use authorization. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 21 days apart.

“Holders of FAA-issued Airman Medical Certificates or Medical Clearances may receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine; however, a 48-hour no fly/no safety related duty interval must be observed after each dose,” the policy said.

The 48-hour wait period before flying or controlling air traffic applies after each dose. The FAA said it “anticipates taking no additional measures to ensure safety after the initial window for side effects closes.”

However, the agency added that it would monitor “patient response to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and may adjust this policy as necessary to ensure aviation safety.” In addition, the FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine will evaluate subsequent vaccines as the FDA grants emergency use authorization.

Brief waiting periods before flying are not uncommon after receiving vaccines, the FAA said, citing short waits that are required after receiving the tuberculosis or typhoid vaccines.

“We applaud the FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine for carefully reviewing the data and quickly releasing a policy that allows pilots and air traffic controllers to receive the vaccine and continue working and flying after a brief period,” AOPA President Mark Baker said.

Alyssa J. Miller
Alyssa J. Cobb
The former senior director of digital media, Alyssa J. Cobb was on the AOPA staff from 2004 until 2023. She is a flight instructor, and loves flying her Cessna 170B with her husband and two children. Alyssa also hosts the weekly Fly with AOPA show on the AOPA Pilot Video YouTube channel.
Topics: Advocacy, Pilot Regulation, Pilot Health and Medical Certification

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