Wisconsin Senator Johnson Presses FAA on Vaccine Effects

U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) is asking the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide information about the effects that COVID-19 vaccines may have had on numerous aviation professionals and the agency’s response to those effects. 

Johnson wrote a letter to FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen and Office of Aerospace Medicine Federal Air Surgeon Susan Northrup last week requesting an investigation into the conditions of commercial pilots Greg Pierson, Bob Snow and Wil Wolfe. The three were all in their 50s or 60s and the latter two received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine while Pierson got the Pfizer shot. The senator also wants investigations to determine vaccine effects on agricultural pilot Cody Flint and air-traffic controller Hayley Lopez, respectively 33 and 29, who both obtained the Pfizer jab. 

The five flight professionals all had medical trauma after getting their shots in 2021, experiencing such ailments as intracranial (inner-skull) pressure, fibromyalgia, atrial fibrillation and sudden cardiac arrest. Four of the individuals survived these afflictions but Wolfe suffered a seizure and partial paralysis thirteen days after getting vaccinated and died four days later on November 26, 2021. 

Johnson suggested these events raise particular concern in light of recent changes the FAA made to its Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners. Last October, the agency increased the maximum PR interval — a “heart health metric measured by electrocardiograms” — for first-degree atrioventricular block from 210 to 300 milliseconds. First-degree atrioventricular block can lead to slower or abnormal heart rhythms. 

Johnson wants the FAA to explain its revision of the interval. He noted in a statement that the agency has insisted that its change to its medical guide did not occur out of concern for potential effects of COVID vaccinations. The senator said he is nonetheless not satisfied and wants the FAA to conduct a thorough probe of the matter. 

“Questions still remain regarding the FAA’s decision to issue this change and its awareness of adverse events connected to the COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.

When anti-COVID shots became widely available in 2021, most major airlines imposed a mandate for pilots to receive the jab. Northrup has said her administration has “seen no evidence” of the vaccines causing ill effects leading to “aircraft accidents or pilot incapacitations.” 

The senator however wrote he is worried by figures he acquired from a Department of Defense (DoD) whistleblower indicating that infirmities in military pilots have skyrocketed in the last three years. In 2016, military pilots altogether experienced 265 diseases and injuries. That number was 2,194 in 2020.

Diseases and injuries suffered by DoD aviators rose to 2,861 in 2021 and numbered 4,059 last year. 

“These increases in disease and injuries in pilots across the DoD over the last three years, and particularly over the last year, raise questions as to whether FAA has seen similar increases in disease and injuries in individuals in the aviation industry,” Johnson wrote. 

In addition to probing the reason for health complications in the aforementioned aviation professionals, the senator is asking the FAA to explain why the agency decided to change its guidance on atrioventricular block. He also wants the administration to reveal the number of pilots who had PR intervals greater than 210 milliseconds from 2013 through 2022. He furthermore asked the FAA to state how many aviators presently have certification to fly and have PR intervals greater than 210 milliseconds. 

Finally, Johnson asked the FAA to tell him how often and when it has altered its guidance regarding PR intervals over the last decade. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Wisconsin Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ron Johnson” by Senator Ron Johnson. Background Photo “Federal Aviation Administration” by Matthew G. Bisanz. CC BY-SA 3.0.


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