TSA should use dog teams to make up for low vax rate: Schumer

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The TSA should use its canine teams to keep airport security lines moving if there is a worker shortage amid the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday.

President Biden’s vaccination order for federal workers takes effect three days before Thanksgiving — the busiest time of the year for air travel.

“If TSA lags in jabs, send in the dogs,” Schumer said during a press conference in Manhattan, citing recent revelations from the TSA that 40 percent of its employees remain unvaccinated.

“There is no reason on God’s green Earth why anyone — let alone a TSA agent — shouldn’t have the vaccine,” New York’s senior senator said.

“Now if the agency plans now with contingencies, including the deployment of the canine dog teams, wherever the vaccine rates are impacting staffing and security, travel headaches can be avoided,” Schumer insisted.

Chuck Schumer
“If TSA lags in jabs, send in the dogs,” Schumer said during a press conference in Manhattan.
Getty Images

“The canine teams are really effective,” he said. “They can help secure national security and allow TSA agents to more effectively and efficiently screen individuals for explosives. It really works and moves the lines along.”

Schumer said the TSA should “particularly look at New York” in terms of his suggestion both because of the huge number of people who pass through its airports and the relatively low vaccination rates among New York City’s TSA work force.

TSA workers must receive at least their first Pfizer jab by Monday to meet Biden’s Nov. 22 deadline of being fully vaccinated. The second shot of the two-dose regimen can be administered as soon as 21 days later, but not before.

Travelers wait in line to check in for a flight at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) amid a COVID-19 surge in Southern California on December 22, 2020
There is a worker shortage amid the federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
A TSA agent checks travelers through security at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, CA on Tuesday, January 26, 2021.
The COVID-19 vaccination mandate for federal workers takes effect three days before Thanksgiving.
Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Workers also can receive Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot dose.

But it’s already too late for them to receive the Moderna shot and be fully vaccinated by the deadline, since Moderna requires 28 days between its two doses.

The potential worker shortage could leave Thanksgiving travelers in a lurch, as experts predict an increase in Americans traveling this holiday season.

Transportation Security Administration K9 handler Tommy Karathomas and his explosive detection dog Buddy perform a demonstration at LaGuardia Airport on January 20, 2016
TSA workers must receive at least their first Pfizer jab by Monday to meet the Nov. 22 deadline of being fully vaccinated.
Bryan Thomas/Getty Images
TSA dogs
Schumer said the dogs can help the TSA “effectively and efficiently screen individuals for explosives.”
Getty Images

TSA spokesman Robert Langston said in a statement that the 40 percent unvaccinated rate “reflects employees TSA doesn’t yet have vaccination information on, and is not an accurate reflection of its vaccination rate.

“Employee vaccination remains a priority within TSA,” Langston said. “As we’ve seen across other sectors, we anticipate that the vast majority of TSA employees will get vaccinated. Thousands of TSA employees upload their vaccination every week.”

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