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What if you're not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine? Can you travel?

April 16, 2021
5 min read
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More than 21% of the U.S. population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. And many of the people who have been vaccinated — or are scheduled to receive the vaccine soon — are thinking about their travel plans for 2021 and beyond.

But what if you’re ineligible for the vaccine right now, for whatever reason? In that case, you still might be able to travel -- with some extra hoops. But it likely won’t be that simple, given how complex the COVID-19 pandemic is. Here’s what you need to know.

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Who isn’t eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Currently, the only groups the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends postponing vaccination are people currently sick with or those who get COVID-19 before getting their second dose of vaccine. Also, people with severe allergic reactions to any component of the vaccine shouldn’t receive it. Children under 16 aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet, at all -- more on that below.

Related: US recommends pausing Johnson & Johnson vaccine: What to know about COVID-19 vaccines in the US

Can children travel abroad if they haven’t been vaccinated?

(Photo by narvikk/Getty Images)

Children might be the best example of a large population of people who aren’t eligible for vaccination yet.

Currently, there’s an age limit on all three vaccines available under the Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is available for people 16 and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available for adults who are over 18.

Kids aren’t yet eligible for vaccination, under current guidelines, and might not be for a while. Pfizer said on March 31 that its vaccine was 100% effective in children ages 12 to 15, and the company hopes to start vaccinating this age group “before the start of the next school year.”

“Children and adolescents outside these authorized age groups should not receive COVID-19 vaccination at this time,” say guidelines issued by the CDC. The CDC also says there are limited vaccine safety and efficacy data in this age group.

Related: Can you skip quarantine if you’ve been vaccinated?

The cruise industry offers a glimpse of how the travel industry might handle travelers who aren’t vaccinated. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity said children under 18 could sail with proof of a negative COVID-19 test instead of proof of vaccination.

However, both lines said adult passengers would need to be fully vaccinated to sail when the lines resume operations in June.

Dozens of countries have now reopened to U.S. tourists. Some of those countries have already announced plans to welcome back — or waive testing and quarantine requirements for — fully vaccinated travelers.

Related: Do kids need to get the COVID-19 vaccine before traveling?

Will a vaccine be required to travel?

(Photo by Maciej Toporowicz, NYC/Getty Images)

Several countries have indicated that they’ll allow vaccinated travelers to skip mandatory quarantines. And certain destinations and travel providers have indicated the vaccine could even be a requirement.

Having received a COVID-19 vaccine could very well be a new requirement for entry to some destinations, similar to the way proof of yellow fever vaccination is already necessary to travel to some countries.

Related: Where you can go with a vaccine passport: A country-by-country guide

What about other travel vaccines?

There’s much more guidance on people who shouldn’t take the yellow fever vaccine, for instance. How countries have handled these vaccines may serve as guidelines for overseeing people who aren’t yet eligible for vaccination.

For example, people can opt-out of taking the yellow fever vaccine if they’ve had an allergic reaction after a previous dose, have a weakened immune system or have gotten any other vaccines in the past four weeks.

But it’s not as simple as saying you can’t take it, especially for international travel.

Travelers headed to Ghana, which requires the yellow fever vaccine, are required to show a vaccination waiver issued by a medical practitioner stating the reasons why a person can’t take it. However, the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, a travel health organization, notes that these waivers might not be accepted.

Bottom line

We can look to how other countries have handled entry requirements for travel vaccines, like yellow fever, to possibly predict how the COVID-19 vaccines will be handled for those not eligible to receive it.

Children might be afforded more leeway because most aren't eligible for vaccination as of yet. But if you're an adult, justifying not being eligible for vaccination might prove difficult -- if not impossible -- in some countries.

Featured image by AFP via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
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  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases