U.S. House votes to end foreign air traveler COVID vaccine requirement

Air travel resumes amid lifting of COVID-19 mask mandate at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia
A mix of masked and unmasked travelers make their way through Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport after the Biden administration announced it would no longer enforce a U.S. coronavirus disease (COVID-19) mask mandate on public transportation, following a federal judge's ruling that the 14-month-old directive was unlawful, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., April 19, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to end a requirement that most foreign air travelers be vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the few remaining pandemic travel restrictions still in place.

The vote was 227 to 201 with seven Democrats joining Republicans. No Republicans voted against the bill.

The Biden administration in June dropped its requirement that people arriving in the United States by air must test negative for COVID but has not lifted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination requirements for most foreign travelers.

The White House said Tuesday it was opposed to the bill saying the vaccine requirement "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." It is not clear if the Senate will take up the bill.

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 "the need for this requirement has long since passed, and we appreciate the bipartisan action by the U.S. House to end this outdated policy ... The U.S. is the only country that has maintained this policy."

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.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Stephen Coates

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