Before you get your COVID-19 vaccine, know how it will affect your pilot medical
To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? It seems as though the whole world has an opinion on the Covid vaccine. And some of those opinions are leaning toward the extreme. For example, my best friend wouldn’t get it if her life depended on it. Some employers require their employees to get it, while others have taken a wait and see kind of attitude. Pilots are somewhere in the middle as we have been waiting for the FAA to give the go-ahead for us to get the vaccine with no risk to our pilot medicals. Fortunately, the blessing has been given, although there are restrictions.
The FAA has stated that all aviation professionals with medical certification or medical clearances must wait at least 48 hours after receiving the vaccine before resuming safety-sensitive aviation duties. This includes pilots and air traffic controllers. The FAA is concerned about the side effects of the injection and requires the 48 hour wait for both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Both vaccines’ side effects are known to mimic the virus itself, which is why the 2 day waiting period is required. The 2 most common side effects are pain at the injection site and fatigue, followed by headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever. It doesn’t sound like a walk in the park, but the side effects usually go away in a day or two.
Requiring a mandatory waiting period for a vaccine isn’t unique to the coronavirus; the FAA has also mandated waits for typhoid and tuberculosis diseases. Since the FAA does not typically approve a new drug/medication until it has been on the market for at least a year, I think a 48 hour observation period is more than reasonable.
Subsequent vaccines will also be subject to the pilot/controller 48 hour waiting period. When it’s your turn to get in line for the shot, plan accordingly. Pilot unions are asking congress for a spot near the front of the line for pilots since we interact with the public daily, but the timeline remains to be seen. So far, there is no talk of requiring the vaccine to qualify for a pilot medical, but in these crazy times, I suppose anything is possible.