Vaccinations for COVID-19, now rolling out, are sending waves of relief across the globe. As the world inches closer and closer to herd immunity, questions about what travel will look like are on the rise. 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 enter another country or board a plane? How will destinations verify vaccination, and will that become a passport requirement? Let’s break down what we know as of February 24, 2021.
The future of travel with COVID-19 vaccinations
If I’ve Received 2 Doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine, Will I Have to Wear a Mask?
According to the CDC, yes:
“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.”
Will I need to Provide Proof of a Negative COVID-19 Test Result to Enter Another Country or Board a Plane if I have been fully Vaccinated?
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 Destinations Verify COVID-19 Vaccination?
As of right now, there is not one streamlined way for destinations across the world to verify a COVID-19 vaccination. Much like the verification of a COVID-19 test, apps and forums have been popping up to assist countries in tracking and verifying such documentation.
Although more localized vaccination passes are cropping up in places like Los Angeles, the weight of these digital passes may not be up to snuff with international locales. Currently, tech and health companies are teaming up to create a digital COVID-19 vaccination passport, 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.
Will a Vaccine Become Mandatory for Travel (in the near term)?
There are two reasons that proof of having been vaccinated will not be required for travel abroad in the near-term. First, a vaccine won’t be required for travel in the near term because of the length of time it will take to vaccinate the population. Second, a large percentage of people who want to travel in the near term (young adults who are not first responders) will not be among the last groups to be prioritized for inoculation. If a country made being vaccinated mandatory for travel this winter, it would greatly reduce the pool of people eligible to travel there.
The other reason that a vaccine will not be required in the near term is that proof of having been vaccinated does not mean that the person who was vaccinated can no longer spread the disease. The vaccine will only protect one from becoming sick.
If the Vaccine won’t be Mandatory, What Paperwork will People Need 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 the only mandatory paperwork required for people traveling 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 been accepting rapid antigen and PCR tests. This trend of accepting results from more types of tests for travel will continue.
What is the Likelihood of it 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 concrete answer. So as of right now, our immediate answer is no, until proven otherwise.
Will I Need to Follow Quarantine Protocol if I have been Vaccinated??
As of right now, yes. There is no way to be excluded from quarantine protocol 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).