Last month, when the Biden administration announced plans to reopen the United States to fully vaccinated international travelers, the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was surprisingly short on details of how the new system would work.
Several weeks later and we still have few details about the new arrangements and even Britain’s transport minister Grant Shapps had to embarrassingly admit that U.S. officials hadn’t yet told him when the new rules would come into force.
The CDC continues to work on many of the details of President Biden’s hastily announced reopening plans and that’s left many people wondering if they could still be barred from entering the United States when the borders are reopened.
The biggest unanswered question is what vaccines will the United States accept? If the CDC were only to recognise vaccines approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that would restrict the list to just three vaccines that aren’t even in widespread use in many countries.
Thankfully, we now have an answer to that question. Late on Friday, the CDC confirmed that it would not only recognize vaccines approved for use by the FDA but also the World Health Organization (WHO).
The FDA list of approved vaccines includes:
- Pfizer / BioNTech (now marketed as Comirnaty)
- Moderna (sometimes known as Spikevax)
- J&J Janssen (Offically called Ad26.COV2.S)
In addition, the WHO has granted Emergency Use Listing status to the following four vaccines:
- AstraZeneca (marketed as Vaxzevria)
- Covishied (Which is a recombinant of the ChAdOx1 vaccine)
According to the CDC, airlines have already been informed of the approved list of vaccines to help them prepare before the new system comes into place next month.
The CDC has confirmed that mix-and-match vaccine doses count towards being fully vaccinated and even though some at-risk groups are eligible for booster doses, there is currently no time limit on being considered fully vaccinated after receiving the full course of a vaccine regimen.
At least two weeks must have after receiving the final dose of a vaccine regimen to be considered fully vaccinated. Participants in a U.S. vaccine trial who are confirmed to have received the active vaccine and not a placebo will also be considered fully vaccinated for travel to the United States.
The CDC is also working on a new contact tracing system which is likely to take the form of an electronic passenger locator form.
Restricting entry to only fully vaccinated visitors will allow the Biden administration to lift controversial travel bans on Europe’s Schengen zone and the United Kingdom, as well as a slew of other countries including India, South Africa, Brazil and even China and Iran.
The change might, however, disadvantage travelers who live in countries where access to COVID-19 vaccines is still limited. Anyone vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will also be barred after the WHO delayed its emergency use listing approval.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.