Foreigners looking to visit the US now know what vaccines will be accepted for entry

Oct 12, 2021

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The White House will allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter the United States beginning in November.

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However, the U.S. has faced questions about who will be allowed into the United States without facing additional restrictions. International travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S. with proof of vaccination (unvaccinated U.S. citizens, including children, can still enter though they will face more strict testing requirements) and a negative COVID-19 test.

Travelers have legitimate questions, especially as people begin planning their trips to the U.S. One of the biggest questions: Is your COVID-19 vaccine good enough to travel?

Whether you’re looking ahead to more international travel or hoping to answer questions for friends and family members abroad, here’s what we know so far about the U.S. stance on vaccinations for international arrivals.

Which COVID-19 vaccines will the US accept for travel?

(Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

One of the biggest questions people planning travel to the U.S. have is which vaccines will be accepted for entry.

There are three vaccines approved for use in the U.S.: Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person is considered “fully vaccinated” if it’s been two weeks after the second dose in a two-dose series or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine.

But not all COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. are used worldwide, and some people vaccinated abroad may not have been injected with a dose approved for use in the U.S. So, the CDC also considers a person fully vaccinated if they were inoculated with a World Health Organization emergency-use dose. Those shots include the three available in the U.S., and the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.

The CDC’s recommendation has already been conveyed to the travel industry, the White House said.

“Earlier this week, to help them prepare their systems, we informed airlines that the vaccines that are FDA authorized/approved or listed for emergency use by WHO will meet the criteria for travel to the U.S.,” the CDC told USA Today.

It’s still unclear whether American citizens immunized in countries without the aforementioned authorized vaccines would be considered vaccinated or unvaccinated. Another question is what this means for non-citizens who have received a COVID-19 vaccine that isn’t FDA authorized or approved or authorized by WHO. That would exclude vaccines like Russia’s EpiVacCorona, which is used in Russia, Belarus and Turkmenistan but isn’t FDA- or WHO-authorized, or China’s CanSino, which is available in 10 countries worldwide, including Mexico.

The CDC appeared to answer the question on Sept. 28 when it updated guidance to say impacted people “may start over with an FDA-authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccine.” The agency also recommends that people who got vaccinated with a non-CDC or WHO authorized vaccine wait at least 28 days before getting an authorized vaccine, which will almost certainly complicate already tricky travel plans.

There are also questions about mixed doses, and the U.S. hasn’t said if it would impose vaccine validity rules as one country has already done.

Either way, the U.S. will have to figure out how to verify vaccine credentials for so many countries.

How to prove vaccination status

(Photo by Morsa Images/Getty Images)

Unlike the European Union, with its EU COVID Certificate, the United States has no official vaccine passport. The Biden administration earlier this year that there would be no “federal mandate” for vaccine passports. Instead, it has left the decision up to the private sector and individual states. Several companies such as Clear, IBM and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have created digital vaccine credentials that can be used for travel.

American travelers vaccinated in the U.S. should have no issue getting through with their paper CDC card, but we don’t know what will be accepted yet from other countries or if any state vaccine passport apps might work.

The CDC says that travelers abroad should keep their vaccine documentation in the other country to show proof and recommends documenting their proof of vaccination with a primary care provider in the U.S.

Bottom line

International travelers may find the border to the U.S. isn’t as easy to cross as promised when it reopens later this fall. And even Americans may discover they’ll be considered unvaccinated and need to deal with day-of testing (which can be costly) to return home from abroad.

We’re still learning if travelers who have been vaccinated with non-approved doses will face stricter measures. Right now, there are far more questions than answers about which travelers would be considered fully vaccinated when the United States reopens for travel. Travelers vaccinated abroad who plan to travel to the U.S. may want to pay close attention to White House and CDC updates, especially over the next few weeks.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

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