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Do we need COVID-19 vaccination to travel in 2021?

by Flitter Fever
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The latest news on COVID-19 vaccination and travel. Will you get vaccinated against COVID-19? The Dutch government underlines getting vaccinated will stay on voluntary basis. However, travelers should expect that a number of countries and airlines will require evidence of COVID-19 vaccination before being allowed in. It makes sense to me and recent news reports also point in this direction.

This article is not meant to promote travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, but to give an overview of the developments, mainly by sharing relevant news messages. Before planning a trip, always verify the news with the country’s responsible governmental institution about the exact rules and requirements. And please check the travel advice from your local government and travel insurrance! When country x allows vaccinated travellers in, does not mean that there are no risks or potential personal consequences involved. Stay safe & healthy.

Do we need COVID-19 vaccination to travel
Do we need COVID-19 vaccination to travel again? (image credits Miroslava Chrienova)

In the news

Qantas boss Alan Joyce recently said that the airline will ask people to have a vaccination before they get on the aircraft for international flights. I doubt they will be the only one. “Airlines don’t want to be accused of serving as vectors for the virus in passengers on board,” said Dr. Robert Quigley, senior vice president and global medical director of International SOS.

United Airlines might require its employees to take the [COVID-19] vaccine. “It’s the way to ensure the safety of our employees,” United Airlines chief executive Scott Kirby said.

The New York Times 22.01.2021

Last week Anthony Stephen Fauci, a well-known American physician and immunologist, told Newsweek that it is quite possible that the COVID-19 vaccine becomes a required travel vaccine when visiting other countries. “There are going to be individual institutions that I’m sure are going to mandate it” Fauci said.

Cruise bookings rose after Pfizer announced 95% efficacy for their COVID-19 vaccine, a significant mile stone.

Frank Del Rio, CEO Norwegian Cruise Line

Updates COVID-19 vaccination & travel

The latest news on COVID-19 vaccination for travel purposes, in particular countries re-opening their borders for tourists who have been vaccinated, after publication of this article:

GREECE “Anyone who has been vaccinated will be free. (..) When you have specific resources, you should not waste them where there is no risk and the vaccinated is not such a big risk.” – Harry Theocharis, Minister of Tourism of Greece – LIFO 14.01.2021

UPDATE Greece Set to Reopen to Tourists on May 14.

Schengen Visa Info 07.04.2021

EU With a ‘corona passport’, people who have already received a vaccination should be able to travel through Europe without hindrance. That is a proposal by the Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis, which will be discussed during a video summit next week.

De Telegraaf 15.01.2021

ICELAND People certified as having had COVID-19 and recovered, or having been vaccinated, will also be able to avoid border testing (effective May 1, 2021).

RUV 15.01.2021

SEYCHELLES The Seychelles drops quarantine requirement for Covid-vaccinated travelers.

CNN 19.01.2021

ROMANIA Travelers can skip quarantine in Romania if they’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine (with immediate effect).

Lonely Planet 22.01.2021

Crystal Cruises makes it clear: No vaccine, no cruise!

Travel Weekly 18.02.2021

7 destinations that are allowing travelers vaccinated for COVID-19: The Seychelles, Iceland, Georgia, Estonia, Romania, Cyprus and Poland.

The Washington Post 10.02.2021

CYPRUS Cyprus to welcome UK travellers who have had Covid vaccine for holidays from 1 May.

iNews UK 05.03.2021

ECUADOR Passengers entering Ecuador airports may present an antigen test or vaccination certificate against the coronavirus.

El Universo 17.03.2021

BELIZE If you can provide proof of COVID-19 immunization, you are no longer required to present a negative test result for entry. Belize will accept an official vaccine card reflecting the receipt of the dual or single dose vaccine at least two weeks prior to arrival.

Belize Tourism Board (FAQ) 17.03.2021

NEPAL In a bid to boost tourism, Nepal lifts mandatory quarantine for vaccinated tourists.

The Kathmandu Post 19.03.021

CYPRUS Cyprus re-opens its borders to visiotors from the United States of America as of April 1, 2021.

MOH Cyprus 24.03.2021

MADEIRA Portugal’s archipelago of Madeira Permits Passengers Holding COVID-19 Vaccine Passports to Enter Its Territory. (…) Portugal’s administration stressed that the decision includes passengers coming from the following EU Member State countries: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Cyprus, France, Estonia, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Malta and Sweden. (…) You need to register before arrival.

Schengen Visa Info 30.03.2021

USA Fully vaccinated people can travel in U.S. without tests or quarantines.

NBC News 02.04.2021

GUATEMALA Guatemala’s land, air, and seaports of entry reopen to passengers who comply with the requirements, meaning: proof of a negative coronavirus test no more than 72 hours before boarding, or official vaccination card(s).

Latin American Travel Association 17.04.2021

EUROPE Vaccinated Americans welcome for a holiday in the European Union from this summer (2021).

Luchtvaartnieuws 26.04.2021

Please be aware that these changes may only apply to travelers coming from certain countries, not everybody. Make sure to check the latest country’s entry requirements and your government’s travel advice for that country before booking and boarding. Some interesting resources are for example:

From test to vaccine

In this current pandemic many countries now require a PCR test certificate that shows the traveler recently tested negative for COVID-19 and/or go in quarantine. On top of that, some countries like Costa Rica, Thailand and Aruba require additional (proof of) insurance to cover COVID-19 related healthcare costs.

For sure most countries will continue their current COVID-19 border controll requirements for some time. The Netherlands now not only requires a negative PCR test certificate for people arriving by air from non-Schengen countries. It was recently announced that this requirement is also applicable for people arriving into The Netherlands by ferry, international train or bus.

I also expect that many countries will loosen their current COVID-19 border control requirements at some point in 2021. If that traveler can show evidence of COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccination is not a punishment. It is a preventive measure. Just instead of outright banning everyone they are trying to keep everybody safe, saying “Hey, let’s just make sure that you aren’t going to be a vector of transmission”. What I did learn today is that if you test positive for COVID-19 here, you can ony vaccinate 4 weeks after.

It will take some time before the COVID-19 vaccination will become widely available for the majority of people. But once I can have it, I will get it. Wonder why? See my previous article on this topic No panic! My uncensored plea to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Corona test report
Corona test report (image credits Mohamed Hasan)
Getting vaccinated against the Coronavirus
Getting vaccinated against the new Coronavirus (image credits Hatice Erol)

Benefits

As a responsible traveler and citizen I do see also practical benefits of a COVID-19 vaccination compared to testing. Testing is good, prevention is better. Commercial PCR tests with travel certificate are in most cases more costly than getting vaccinated.

Plus, having received the vaccination would then hopefully provide a longer break or release from the hassle and stress to get tested for COVID-19 at 72 hours or so before every flight. At least for the Duration of Immunity (DOI), which is not clear yet. Nevertheless, personally I have zero problems with getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The sooner the better. We need to start somewhere. A vaccination is a privilege and our best opportunity to go back to normal a.s.a.p. Vaccinating all citizens of a country can take a while though, in The Netherlands they expect to be done by October 2021.

Vaccination passport

This week it was in the news that several companies are working on the development of a digital vaccination passport. It is also known as immunity passport, mostly in the form of an app.

The COVID-19 Credentials Initiative (CCI) has set itself the task to coordinate the privacy-preserving, verifiable, universal credentials that all of these apps should meet. Countries will likely set their own individual requirements, but a common ground should be found in order to make it work.

It may also be time to digitize the vaccination passport. I’ve lost one before. Customs, airlines, but I feel also travelers will benefit from a streamlined, modern way of presenting evidence of vaccination. Also, it should be ensured that the method of showing evidence of vaccination is very difficult , preferably impossible, to falsify.

On several travel related Facebook groups I have seen some people expect falsification of proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and even shamelessly applaud it when that would become mandatory for travel purposes.

Vaccination passport in the news

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 260 members, recently announced that they are in the final development phase of the IATA Travel Pass, a digital health pass that will support the safe reopening of borders.

The Straits Times announed just before Christmas that Singapore Airlines (SIA) has started trials of a new app developed by IATA. This app will allow to quicky verify COVID-19 test results via QR-code, potentially paving the way for the introduction of vaccine passports. This procedure should replace the paper COVID-19 test result certificates for travel and speed up the lines to clear immigration.

If you travel to Aruba in [March] 2021, you will need two passports; the normal passport and a health passport. The Minister of Tourism, Health and Sport Dangui Oduber has announced this.

Antiliaans Dagblad 04.01.2021

COVID-19 vaccine card is not an immunity passport. Here’s the difference.

Corona virus suspect passport
Will border control refuse you when not tested and/or vaccinated against COVID-19?

Yellow Fever

Requiring proof of vaccination before being allowed in is nothing new. Those who have traveled to for example West and Central Africa will be familiar with the Yellow Fever vaccination. Yellow Fever is caused by a mosquito. With 18 African countries evidence of Yellow Fever vacination is mandatory in order to get in.

In 30 other countries in Africa and South America there is a risk to catch Yellow Fever. Many countries around the world require a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate for travelers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of Yellow Fever.

Which country will require a COVID-19 vaccination from travelers is yet to be announced. New Zealand and Australia are for example likely candidates, but this is not confirmed yet.

Whatever it takes

You have to have inoculations for entry to most countries… the COVID-19 vaccination will just be another one. Many countries require evidence of Yellow Fever vaccination and/or a visa from travelers before allowing them in and to travel within that country. Evidence of COVID-vaccination is likely to become a travel requirement for several countries and perhaps airlines too. Personally I have no problem with that. To me, vaccination is a better solution than 14 days of quarantine and/or having to test for COVID-19 before every international flight and trip.

Whether you like it or not, you must understand that as a general rule, you are not entitled to enter other counties. Travelling to foreign countries for leisure and vacations is not a human right, nor is it ensured in any other international conventions. It is the right of a country and the duty of a country’s government to protect their citizens’ health. And so to demand from arriving visitors whatever they feel is necessary in order to do that.

Countries set their own conditions and rules for people to enter their country, this will vary per country. As it already is with any other border control measure. Although we can assume that within the EU for example they will try to find a common set of rules within that area. You cannot blame authorities to take measures to prevent the import and spread of the virus. It is up to you whether you want to meet those conditions or not. And choices have consequences.

Know the rules
Make sure you know and comply with the rules of a country (image credits Gerd Altmann)

Vaccination for travel

As an adult, I voluntarily received many additional vaccinations for travel purposes, such as DTP and Hepatitis A for trips to Argentina, South Africa and China for instance. Some vaccinations had to be repeated several times to maximize the duration of immunity (for example for 10 years or life-long). Such repeat vaccination is also referred to as a so-called ‘booster’.

The stamps of the vaccinations I received so far, both as a child within the Dutch national vaccination program as those I received as an adult for travel purposes, are in my vaccination passport. That is currently still on paper. How and when this registration will be done for COVID-19 vaccination is still not 100% clear within The Netherlands.

I hope that the paper vaccination passport can be stamped when I get the COVID-19 vaccine. I am afraid this may be refused for example due to time pressure. Possibly only with the booster vaccination (which is not applicable for all COVID-19 vaccines). Hopefully the registration will be done in a way that it can serve as a type of proof of COVID-19 vaccination that will be accepted by border control authorities abroad. We will wait and see.

CNN also published an interesting article about this topic on 14.01.2021: No vaccine, no service: How vaccinations may affect travel plans in the future.

Vaccination trips: in the news

More and more people are anxious to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to travel again. Some countries even started to offer trips that include COVID-19 vaccination. You may question yourself how ethical that is.

USA Mumbai-based Gem Tours & Travel has announced a coronavirus vaccine tourism package for high networth individuals (HNI) clients who wish to travel to the US for the shot.

Mint 24.11.2020

INDIA Indian travel agencies plan ‘vaccine tourism’ with packages for UK, US and Russia.

The Print India 06.12.2020

UAE & INDIA Elite members-only travel service The Knightsbridge Circle [from the UK] charges super-rich £40k to fly them out for COVID vaccine in Dubai & India.

The Sun 15.01.2021

THAILAND (…) The one-month tour packages are expected to cost 150,000 baht, including a 14-day quarantine in an alternative state quarantine or alternative local quarantine facility and vaccination costs.

Bangkok Post 22.01.2021
Vaccination is not rarely needed to travel
Vaccination is not rarely needed to travel (photo credits Frauke Riether)

Nothing is carved in stone yet, a lot of things can still change. But based on these recent developments and looking at the current practice with Yellow Fever, I count on it. Being able to show evidence of COVID-19 vaccination will become a big thing in the world of travel in 2021. Let’s wait and see how this develops.

For additional information about COVID-19 vaccination check out the page COVID-19 vaccination: answers to questions you may have.

COVID-19 and travel

Read more about this topic in the following articles:

Last Updated on 04/26/2021 by Flitter Fever

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2 comments

Sue 01/22/2021 - 17:13

Very interesting & I would not be surprised if most airlines & countries have vaccination as a mandatory entrance /boarding criteria. Travel has meant that I have received so many vaccines over the years that I struggle to see why some people believe there is a problem with this one. It scares me that so many attempts will be made to fake any certification so they do need to have a solid digital validation process in place fairly soon. I can’t wait to get the vaccine & am currently waiting to be called on to volunteer in the rollout across the UK. Thanks for sharing. A very timely & interesting post!

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Flitter Fever 01/25/2021 - 19:42

Thanks for your support Sue, us experienced travelers do not underestimate how important vaccines are to protect our health. Fingers crossed we can get ours a.s.a.p. Best regards, Elisa

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