As millions of people get vaccinated for COVID-19, the world inches closer and closer to herd immunity. Many of you who limited your travel to road trips in the past 18 months, are now itching to get back on a plane to travel further afield.
It’s natural to have a lot of questions about what travel will be like under these conditions. Will I need to wear a mask if I’m vaccinated? Will I need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to board a plane and/or to enter another country? How will airport and immigration officials verify that a person has been vaccinated? Will “vaccine passports” become a requirement? Let’s break down what we know as of August, 2021.
The future of travel with COVID-19 vaccinations
If I have been fully Vaccinated, Will I Still Need to Provide Proof of a Negative COVID-19 Test Result to Board a Plane and/or Enter Another Country?
In short, yes. According to the CDC, not much will really change in current COVID-19 travel requirements, at least not for a little while. You will still need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter countries as required by that destination until we (at least in the US and EU) have reached herd immunity.
How close are we to herd immunity? Health experts estimate that we need at least 80-90% COVID-19 immunity (either through prior infection or vaccination) to get there.
See our blogs: Caribbean Island Travel… What COVID-19 Testing is Required?, Traveling to St Barts in the Coronavirus Era. What Testing is Required?, and COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Travel to Europe for the latest updates on your favorite destinations and what their testing requirements are.
How will Officials at Airports and Immigration Desks Verify COVID-19 Vaccination?
As of right now, there is not one universal method for those in the travel industry to verify that a person has been vaccinated for COVID-19. Individual states and countries have not been providing individuals with an electronic confirmation of their vaccinations, so authorities are dependent on travelers showing their CDC cards (however those cards can easily be forged).
Proof of testing negative for Covid 19 is much easier to verify as people who are tested receive an electronic confirmation of their negative test.
Starting in the summer of 2021, individual states like New York and Rhode Island are providing residents with digital records of their vaccinations, which can be shown on the recipients phone, or uploaded into a travel authorization portal. Cities like Los Angeles have rolled out apps that people can upload vaccination records into, so that proof of vaccination can be displayed at restaurants and venues that require it. Tech and health care companies are teaming up to create digital COVID-19 vaccination passports, like CommonPass. That is, however, still in the works, and yet to be tested across country lines, within airports, and throughout various systems and processes all tied to travel.
How Do I get a Digital Record of My Vaccinations?
Many states have set-up (or will set-up soon) a website where residents can request a digital record of their covid19 vaccination record.
We advise all clients to get their digital records now, as several destinations have announced that they will no longer accept handwritten CDC cards (including Turks & Caicos)
How can travelers can find their state’s covid 19 vaccination records website?
1) Google search for ” digital record of covid-19 vaccination for (state name) “
(Note: Some states are providing a record with a QR code, some states are providing a digital record online, others require you to send in a written request to get a digital record via email)
2) Take a photo of the record on screen, so you can upload it to a travel authorization portal
3) Print out a copy of the vaccination record
Nation wide, if you got your shot at CVS
For residents of New York
For residents of Rhode Island
Will Proof of Vaccination Become Mandatory for Travel ?
There are two reasons that proof of having been vaccinated will not be universally required for travel abroad in the near-term.
First, the economies of many smaller countries are heavily dependent on the dollars generated by tourism, so they are hesitate to mandate vaccination for tourists. These countries will however ask for proof of a negative test result.
Second, a large percentage of people who want to travel in the near term will be among the last groups to be prioritized for inoculation. Namely those of pre-college age. If a country made being vaccinated mandatory for entry for all age groups, it would greatly reduce the pool of people eligible to travel there.
What Will Be Required to Travel Internationally?
In the near-term, proof of having tested negative for COVID-19 some time within 3 – 5 days of the departure date will continue to be required for all people older than 10 years old, who want to travel internationally.
What will change here over time is the number of accepted tests. At first health authorities only accepted COVID-19 PCR tests administered by nasal swab in a doctors office, then they accepted COVID-19 PCR tests from any facility as long as it was administered by a trained professional. Then health authorities abroad began accepting self -administered at-home tests available from companies like “Let’s Get Checked” and “Covid Consultants“.
More recently, health authorities have begun accepting rapid antigen. This trend of accepting results from more types of tests for travel will continue.
What is the Likelihood of Proof of Vaccination Becoming a Passport Requirement?
This one is a little trickier to answer, and as of right now is only hypothesis. However, looking historically at how pandemics and diseases have helped shape travel requirements, we can give this question a firm “maybe”.
Think about travel to Africa, and what immunizations are needed to enter the country. Shots to protect against yellow fever and cholera are all recommended by the CDC and WHO. Because COVID-19 has had such global reach, it would not be too far-fetched for it to enter the lexicon of recommended vaccinations and immunizations for international and domestic travel.
However, this is all up in the air, and there is no official government mandate in place about this. So as of right now, our immediate answer is that it proof of vaccination is not required if registering for a new passport, or if renewing one.
Will I Need to Follow Quarantine Protocol if I have been Vaccinated??
The answer varies by state and by country. It is the right of each country to decide whether or not tourists are required to quarantine upon entry, whether they are vaccinated or not. If a country mandates quarantining for all tourists, regardless of their vaccination status, there is no way to avoid that quarantine protocol even if you have gotten both shots of your COVID-19 vaccination.
There is hope on the horizon, however. As of February 24, 2021, a new app known (for now) as the International Air Travel Association (IATA) app is set to launch within weeks. The ambitions of this app will be to allow governments and airlines to collect, access, and share information about individual passenger’s COVID-19 status (ie – tests and treatments).
If I’ve Received 2 Doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine, Will I Have to Wear a Mask?
According to the CDC, yes you should, although enforcement will vary by state and country:
“While experts learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide under real-life conditions, it will be important for everyone to continue using all the tools available to us to help stop this pandemic, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, and staying at least 6 feet away from others.”