Despite a record low number of flu cases in the U.S. for the 2020-2021 influenza season, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow as the Delta variant runs rampant across the country the past month. The influenza flu virus and SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, actually have a lot more in common than you think! This includes the way the viruses are transmitted and the symptoms you’d experience when infected, like cough, sore throat, muscle aches, or fever. But, the illness from COVID-19 is said to last longer. Therefore, it is best to ask before you travel to another country.
1. When can I travel after being vaccinated?
Vaccines that require 2 shots only provide partial protection after the first dose, and typically need 2 weeks after the second dose to be fully effective. Single-dose vaccines provide maximum protection against COVID-19 a few weeks after the jab. Therefore, you’ll have to wait 2 weeks after being fully vaccinated before you can travel again.
It is important to note that no vaccines provide 100% protection against COVID-19.
Just like any activity that involves coming into contact with other people, traveling can be risky even after being fully vaccinated. The good news is, with enough population getting vaccinated, herd immunity can be reached, reducing the spread of the virus.
World Health Organization (WHO) currently advises all to reconsider the need for travel, regardless of their vaccination status.
2. How about the Delta variant? Are current vaccines effective against the Delta variant?
Delta is the most contagious variant of the Covid virus. It has been linked to an increase in cases and hospitalizations in many countries.
The good news is that most of the vaccines currently available are still effective in preventing the serious conditions of the disease.
People who have been vaccinated are less likely than those who have not, but you shouldn’t lose your mind. According to the CDC, the Delta virus is expected to increase the number of cases and spread faster than the other variants. It is not a good idea to travel if you are not up-to-date on your vaccinations.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The U.S. reported 131,917 new cases on Wednesday, Aug 11, 2021. This is a record high since February. More than 90% of the U.S. counties are suffering from the high or substantial transmission.
The CDC suggests both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers to avoid travelling to a list consisting of more than 70 countries due to high COVID-19 case counts.
3. Is it safe to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic if you do not have personal protective equipment?
Personal protective equipment includes rubber gloves, masks, and gowns. It is advised that you do not excessively wear your PPE gears. If you wear too much PPE, they will trap in sweat and body fluids and make you feel worse than before. In addition to that, you should wash your hands frequently and remember to clean the surface that you touched.
Only wear the sufficient amount of PPE, and remember to wash your hands.
4. Are people who have had COVID-19 required to be vaccinated before they travel? Are they already immune?
The vast majority of infected people produce antibodies and immune cells that are capable of fighting off the infection. However, there is a wide range of immune responses. The immune protection that could prevent another infection in mildly ill people may diminish within a few weeks.
To ensure maximum protection from the virus and protect others, we encourage everyone to receive their entire course of vaccines as soon as possible.
5. How about those who are pregnant? Do pregnant women need to be vaccinated if they travel?
Evidence suggests that COVID-19 can increase the likelihood of premature births and put pregnant women at higher risk for severe illness. We do not have enough data to evaluate the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant women because they were not part of the initial trials. We recommend pregnant women consult their doctor, who can help determine whether there are any potential risks.
6. I am already vaccinated, is it a good idea to have my antibodies tested before they travel?
Antibody tests do not provide a complete way to determine immunity. Therefore antibody test is not recommended to be used as a guide for whether or not it is safe to travel. Different vaccines trigger different levels of the immune response.
Therefore, it is difficult to predict how long an immune response will last so such tests are not reliable.
7. Keep in mind, COVID-19 is now being infected by a greater number of young children and adolescents.
Children can transmit COVID-19 to others, but their chance of serious disease or death is 800 times greater than that of those over 70. Before considering vaccinations for children with underlying conditions, it is important to distribute vaccines fairly around the globe and to prioritize groups.
- WHO recommends countries use the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (BNT162b2) for children 12-15 years old only when sufficient vaccination coverage has been achieved with 2 doses in high-priority areas.
- Children 12-15 years old with serious COVID-19 diseases or comorbidities may be eligible for vaccination.
- Children below 12 years old are not currently protected by vaccines. Individuals under 12 years old should not be routinely immunized until such data become available.
8. Do I need to wait until I get my booster shot before I travel?
There is no evidence to suggest that additional booster doses are required before you travel.
WHO/Europe launched #SummerSense this summer to remind people to be careful and stay safe from COVID-19. Here are a few tips everyone should follow when it comes to travel assessments.
- Think about the reasons why you are traveling. If you must do so, do it safely.
- Assess your risk every step of the journey.
- Take precautions such as washing your hands frequently, wearing a mask and personal protective equipment, and finally, keeping a safe distance.
- Finally, pay attention to the country status of your designations.