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Travel And Covid Vaccine

by Jocelyn Ottenbreit

The future of travel will look different for quite some time with the COVID-19 pandemic still lingering, and new variants continuing to show up.

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), which is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services, they do not recommend travel internationally until being fully vaccinated.

International travel can still pose additional risks of getting and even possibly spreading some of the COVID-19 variants, even in fully vaccinated travelers. New and concerning variants differ from country to country, and travelers are urged to pay close attention to conditions concerning COVID-19 at the destination they are going to before traveling.

If you travel, whether you are fully vaccinated or not, you are required to follow CDC’s international travel recommendations and guidelines.

Travelers are urged to understand and follow all airline and destination requirements related to travel, as well as mask wearing, testing, or quarantine. Different rules apply in certain countries, with the U.S. being one of them. If you do not follow your destination’s requirements, you may be denied entry.

Be prepared to wear a mask on planes, trains, buses, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States. All U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations require masks indoors. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor areas such as on open deck areas of a ferry, or the uncovered top deck of a bus.

If you are entering the United States by air, all travelers, including fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before boarding a flight to the United States. If you are not fully vaccinated, you should get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.

After travel, it is recommended to get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel. Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.

The CDC recommends that travelers who are not fully vaccinated continue to wear a mask and maintain physical distance when traveling. Avoid crowds and wash hands often. If you are not vaccinated, after travel you must get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after travel AND stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel. Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full 7 days.

If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

After returning home, you are asked to avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not. Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms and follow all local recommendations or requirements.

Although several months ago Canada’s health authority gave the green light to mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccines, another issue travelers are having is that not all countries and some cruise lines are not recognizing certain mixes of vaccines as fully vaccinated. Some vaccines distributed in Canada may cause problems for travellers abroad.

Even though immunizations have given some hope of getting freedom and normalcy back, travelers are being urged to check the requirements of their destination, as some Canadian travelers have already discovered certain mixes of vaccinations may or may not be recognized.

The CDC only recognizes a mix of two mRNA vaccines, such as Pfizer and Moderna as fully vaccinated, but they do not recognize a mix of a vector vaccine, such as AstraZeneca, with an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna. The CDC, however, has made some exceptions to accept mixed doses of the two mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, when the vaccine used for the first dose was no longer available. Since Canadians entering the U.S. by air must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, they won’t be affected by the CDC’s requirements.

Some countries such as Barbados, was one place that didn’t recognize travelers with mixed vaccine doses as being fully vaccinated, resulting in some travelers having to quarantine. They have since reversed their policy. Trinidad and Tobogo also do not recognize these mixed vaccines.

Certain cruises and countries have their own policies toward mixed vaccines, as well as the Indian-made version of AstraZeneca called COVISHIELD.

Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic have no vaccine requirements, and Jamaica will accept anyone with two doses of a World Health Organization-approved (WHO) vaccine, mixed or not.

Although COVISHIELD has been approved in Canada, European countries, such as Italy, Poland, and Portugal, do not recognize it, according to their government websites, and visitors with that vaccine must quarantine and provide a COVID-19 test. Europe has however approved Vaxzevria, the European-manufactured version of AstraZeneca.

Fortunately, other European countries that accept the COVISHIELD vaccine are Spain, Greece, Iceland and France. More than 80,000 Canadians have at least one dose of COVISHIELD.

Germany only accepts a combination of AstraZeneca and Pfizer or Moderna as fully vaccinated and not two mRNA vaccines of different makes, meaning travellers must present a negative COVID-19 test to enter.
The United Kingdom also recognizes COVISHIELD, however fully vaccinated Canadians travelling to the region, no matter what type of vaccine they have, still must quarantine. The U.K. now exempts fully vaccinated Americans and Europeans from quarantine, but not Canadians.

Currently, the U.S. doesn’t currently require vaccinations for travellers. The U.S. also has not approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, or the mixing of COVID-19 vaccines, even though several international studies have explored the effectiveness of mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses, and so far suggest it generates a strong immune response.

Following CDC guidelines, the New York State Department of Health as of now, does not consider people who have a mix of AstraZeneca and an mRNA vaccine as being fully vaccinated.

People wanting to attend a Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett concert in New York City next month will require full vaccination under New York state’s guidelines. Canadians with mixed doses may also be barred from certain U.S. venues where state rules require proof of vaccination.

At least 1.3 million Canadians mixed doses in June, according to Health Canada.

Saskatchewan residents who may require additional doses of COVID-19 vaccinations for international travel are now permitting the administration of these doses by the Government of Saskatchewan effective immediately.

If you received a combination of Astra Zeneca, Pfizer or Moderna and your last vaccination was Pfizer or Moderna, you can receive a third dose of vaccine to match your last vaccine.

Individuals are able to complete a schedule to support international travel requirements if you received two doses of Covishield or Astra Zeneca with two additional matching mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer or Moderna.

The Canadian government is hoping to resolve all vaccine differences and is working with international counterparts.

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