The nation’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he would support a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for traveling on airplanes.
"I would support that if you want to get on a plane and travel with other people that you should be vaccinated," he said in a clip of an interview with theSkimm's podcast, which targets millennial women.
The U.S. Travel Association on Monday responded to Fauci's comment, saying science and studies show that air travel is safe as long as face masks are worn.
"U.S. Travel has long maintained that there should be no mandatory vaccination requirement for domestic travel. Such a policy would have an unfair, negative impact on families with young children who are not yet eligible to get the vaccine," Tori Emerson Barnes, the organization's executive vice president of public affairs and policy, said in a statement.
The association said it believes a federal mask requirement, which has been extended through January 2022, will protect travelers.
"While U.S. Travel does not endorse a national vaccine mandate, we continue to believe that vaccines are the fastest path back to normalcy for all, and we strongly encourage all who are eligible to get a vaccine immediately to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors," Barnes said.
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby discussed the possibility of a vaccine requirement for passengers last month on MSNBC, saying it would be a "government responsibility and requirement." The company already requires all U.S. employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Delta Air Lines announced in May it would be requiring all new U.S. hires to get inoculated.
Fauci's comments followed President Joe Biden's announcement of sweeping vaccine requirements. The president mandated vaccines for federal workers and contractors, and also said he asked the Department of Labor to issue an emergency rule requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any unvaccinated workers to produce a negative COVID-19 test at least once a week.
At a press briefing on Friday, Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said that the Biden administration is taking "strong action on vaccination requirements."
As for mandates for air travel, Zients said, "Overall, I think we have a — you know, a very strong track record that shows we’re pulling available levers to acquire vaccinations and we’re not taking any measures off the table."
This story was originally published on NBC News.