An Air Canada Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner sits at a gate at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on July 16, 2019 ( AFP / Daniel SLIM)

Canada does not bar pilots vaccinated against Covid-19 from flying

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Online articles claim pilots vaccinated against Covid-19 are barred from flying in Canada because they are part of a medical trial. This is false; Transport Canada said that aviators who have received the shots are still permitted to fly.

"Canada Prohibits All Vaxxed Pilots From Flying The Corona Vax Is A 'Medical Trial' And Such 'Vaccinations' Are Ruled To Ground All Pilots," reads the headline of articles shared on social media since July 11, 2021.

Screenshot of an online article taken on July 21, 2021

The articles include a screenshot from the Transport Canada website. It says: "While TC CAM (Transport Canada Civil Aviation Medicine) places no restrictions or limitations on vaccines approved by Health Canada, it remains the general position of TC CAM that participation in medical trials is not considered compatible with aviation medical certification."

Screenshot of the website taken on July 20, 2021

The articles claim that Covid-19 vaccines are a "medical trial" and thus vaccinated pilots cannot fly.

But this is "incorrect," according to a Transport Canada spokeswoman.

"Transport Canada does not prohibit pilots vaccinated with Health Canada-approved vaccines to fly," she said.

Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Covid-19 vaccines have all been approved by the Canadian government. Almost 46 million doses have been administered in the country.

The Transport Canada spokeswoman said the approved Covid-19 vaccines "are not medical trials."

She explained that wording regarding medical trials was added to the Transport Canada website earlier in the pandemic when aviators started asking if they could take part in the vaccine trials that Health Canada was organizing prior to the approval of the shots for general distribution.

Each vaccine went through several phases of clinical trials and were found to be safe and effective by the Canadian government. Data is available from the phase 3 clinical trials, which involved tens of thousands of people, and the vaccine manufacturers continue to monitor the safety and efficacy of their products.

"Now that Health Canada has approved the vaccines, the comment regarding medical trials is less relevant and we have elected to remove that statement," the spokeswoman for Transport Canada said.

The US Federal Aviation Administration, which works in close cooperation with Canada, also allows vaccinated pilots to fly after a 48-hour waiting period. Some US airlines now require new hires to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Transport Canada confirmed that it "does not impose grounding periods for aviators who wish to take vaccines approved by Health Canada."

Air Canada, WestJet and the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada's major passenger airlines, did not reply to AFP's requests for comment.

AFP Fact Check has previously debunked inaccurate claims that airlines have warned people who have been vaccinated for Covid-19 not to travel, and that British Airways is requiring pilots to be vaccinated.