Pilots and air traffic controllers could also receive first doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Pilots fly inside the cockpit of a commercial passenger 747-400 airplane.

The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, has determined that pilots can receive the COVID-19 vaccine depending on the conditions of their FAA-issued airman certification. Eligible air traffic controllers could also receive the vaccine.

The clearance is for specialized pilots and other professionals who perform “safety-sensitive aviation duties.”

The administration issued a statement on Saturday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine Friday night.

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Agency officials said the move is appropriate “to maintain the highest level of safety in the National Airspace System.”

Personnel who receive the vaccine must wait 48 hours before resuming duties. Since the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires two separate doses, 21 days apart, the 48-hour waiting period must apply after each dose.

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FAA said, as of now, no additional safety measures are needed once pilots and air-traffic controllers receive the vaccine. However, officials will continue to monitor the vaccine distribution and could revamp the recommendations as needed.

According to data from Johns Hopkins, more than 290,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began. The country has also seen nearly 16 million positive cases in the same time frame.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.