Flights attendants are calling on the federal government to set up a string of mass vaccination centers in airports across the United States as part of a major push to get airline employees and other essential workers inoculated against the COVUD-19 virus. The vaccination clinics could be similar to one that has been successfully set up inside Singapore’s Changi International Airport.
It took just five days to get Singapore’s in-airport vaccination center up and running according to the Raffles Medical Group which was contracted by the government to deliver the jabs to Singapore’s frontline transport workers. The center is already capable of vaccinating 4,000 people a day and capacity could be easily scaled up should the need arise.
Setting up a vaccination program within an airport terminal isn’t, however, without its challenges. A special medical fridge capable of storing around 10,000 doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine at the required -112°F temperature had to be brought in specially so that no vaccine would go to waste should airport workers get delayed or their flight is cancelled.
There’s also an army of doctors, nurses and support workers on hand in Singapore’s airport vaccination center. At any one time, around 70 staff are duty – not only to deliver the shots but also to monitor patients and handle any emergencies caused by adverse reactions to the vaccine.
It’s not simply a case of walking it, getting the jab and walking back out. Patients must be monitored for 30 minutes to make sure they don’t suffer any unintended side effects from the vaccine. The Changi vaccination clinic has adrenaline injectors and even resuscitation equipment at the ready should the worst happen.
Flight attendants and many other aviation workers can return to work shortly after receiving the vaccine but in the United States, pilots and air traffic controllers must wait at least 48-hours after receiving either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine before returning to work.
American Airlines has already told its pilots they should get vaccinated on their scheduled days off making the need for airport vaccination centres obsolete for these workers.
But Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) still believes there’s a clear need for vaccination clinics inside airports. “Flight attendants, in particular, have contact with a large number of people every day, typically crossing state lines, putting them at increased risk of infection,” Nelson told a recent congressional hearing.
“To facilitate an efficient vaccination rollout for this highly mobile workforce, the federal government should set up vaccination clinics at major airports to make it easy for airline crewmembers to access both their first and second doses, without disrupting their travel schedules,” she continued.
Nelson argues that this would not only prevent wastage but also “maximize the efficacy” of the vaccines.
“Ultimately, widespread vaccination is the only path to sustained recovery for the airline industry,” Nelson told the hearing.
But while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided that transport workers, including flight attendants, should be one of the first groups of people to receive the vaccine, some states have decided otherwise.
The CDC recommends transport workers sit in Tier 1b of the vaccine rollout – just behind residents of longterm care facilities and health care workers. Only 27 states have followed the CDC’s recommendations in their own vaccine rollout plans.
Bizarrely, California governor Gavin Newson even decided to remove essential workers from the state’s priority list for vaccination after the plan had already been published. Workers protested outside Los Angeles International Airport last week in frustration at the change and calling on Newson to reverse his decision.
Some flight attendants have been able to jump the priority list by applying for the vaccine in the state they are based in rather than the state they live in. Others have been bumped up the list due to their age rather than their job.
Delta Air Lines decided to take matters into its own hands and is opening up its own vaccination centre for employees in Concourse C at Atlanta’s Hartfield International Airport. For now, the vaccine can only be made available to employees over the age of 65 in accordance with Georgia’s vaccine rollout plan.
Delta is said to already be eyeing up other airports it could open its own vaccination clinics, such is the airline’s eagerness to get employees inoculated.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.