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Canada does not ban vaccinated pilots from flying

CLAIM: Canada prohibits vaccinated pilots from flying because the COVID-19 vaccine is a “medical trial” and there are health risks involved with such trials.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Pilots in Canada are not blocked from flying if they have received a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the country’s transportation agency, Transport Canada. Canada’s health regulator, Health Canada, has licensed and authorized all four COVID-19 vaccines that are available in the country.

The vaccines have gone through extensive testing and been found to be safe and effective.

THE FACTS: Social media users are using a 2020 screenshot from a Canadian government website to falsely claim the country is banning pilots from flying if they have received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The screenshot shows an outdated web page from Transport Canada. The text states that while 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.”

The screenshot circulated on Twitter, Facebook and various Canadian websites and message boards with claims Canada had banned pilots from flying if they were vaccinated for COVID-19. Twitter users claimed the COVID-19 vaccines were categorized as medical trials.

However, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is not grounds for pilots to be blocked from flying in Canada, nor are the vaccines considered medical trials, according to Transport Canada Senior Communications Adviser Sau Sau Liu.

“Transport Canada does not prohibit pilots vaccinated with Health Canada-approved vaccines to fly nor do we impose grounding periods for aviators who wish to take vaccines approved by Health Canada,” Liu said.

Liu explained that each of the COVID-19 vaccines available in the country — vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca — have gone through extensive clinical trials and been authorized for use by Health Canada.

Therefore, pilots are allowed to get the vaccines.

The outdated screenshot circulating online is a relic from early in the pandemic, when pilots were asking Transport Canada if they could take part in early-stage COVID-19 vaccine trials, Liu said.

At that time, the agency reminded pilots that participation in medical trials is typically not considered compatible with aviation certification.

“Now that Health Canada has approved the vaccines, the comment regarding medical trials is less relevant,” Liu said.

The web page has been updated to clarify that pilots won’t be grounded or denied certification for getting one of the four COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536