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White House and CDC provide details on upcoming international travel policy changes

Airlines are being asked to do more to confirm a traveler’s proof of vaccination

Airplane engine close-up
Photo (c) Marek Madl - Getty Images
The White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have provided more details about a new international air travel policy that will require all foreign national travelers to be fully vaccinated.

The overriding message that officials want to get across is that the new system will be “stringent, consistent across the globe, and guided by public health.”

The nuts and bolts of what travelers need to know

When: Effective Monday, November 8, any non-U.S. citizen and anyone who is not an immigrant to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. They will need to provide proof of their vaccination status in order to fly into the U.S. 

What does “fully vaccinated” mean? Anyone who has received their last dose of an approved vaccine at least two weeks prior to travel will be considered fully vaccinated.

Accepted Vaccines: As it pertains to travel to the United States, the CDC has determined that the only vaccines accepted will include those approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the World Health Organization (WHO).

Proof of Vaccination: Before any foreign national can board a plane bound for the U.S., they’ll need to show proof of vaccination. To prevent anyone from getting around that stipulation, airlines are required to match the name of a passenger and their date of birth to confirm the passenger is the same person listed on the proof of vaccination. 

That document must show that the passenger meets the CDC’s “fully vaccinated” definition, including the name of the vaccine product (e.g., Moderna); the number of vaccine doses received; date(s) of administration; and the site (e.g., vaccination clinic, health care facility) where the traveler received their vaccination.

Airlines are also being asked to pay close attention to the authenticity of the vaccination record to confirm that it was issued by an official source (e.g., public health agency, government agency) in the country where the vaccine was given.

Exceptions: The number of exceptions to this vaccination requirement is extremely limited, but they include:

  • Children under the age of 18

  • Certain COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participants

  • Those with medical contraindications to the vaccines

  • Those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel)

  • Those who are traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability (as determined by the CDC), and other very narrow categories

The White House said those who receive an exception will essentially have to vow that they’ll comply with public health requirements and get vaccinated in the U.S. if they intend to stay in the country for longer than 60 days.

A complete list of exceptions to the vaccination requirement is offered by the CDC and available here.

While it doesn’t pertain to vaccinations, per se, the CDC also noted in its update of the new travel orders that people must wear face masks in indoor areas of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and indoors at U.S. transportation hubs, including airports.

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