There was an interesting CDC Press Release this week, suggesting the government is working on new guidelines surrounding travel regulations which could also impact the regulations regarding mandatory vaccination for visitors.
Currently, all visitors to the U.S. (with a few exceptions) require to be vaccinated with an accepted Covid19 vaccine before being allowed to enter the country.
This regulation has caused those who haven’t been vaccinated to cancel or postpone their U.S. bound travel until further notice. The regulation – which isn’t law but a mandate enacted by the President – doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens and permanent residents among others.
Last week’s CDC press release which was published on August 11th (see here), and there are some interesting parts that might signal key changes.
Today, CDC is streamlining its COVID-19 guidance to help people better understand their risk, how to protect themselves and others, what actions to take if exposed to COVID-19, and what actions to take if they are sick or test positive for the virus. COVID-19 continues to circulate globally, however, with so many tools available to us for reducing COVID-19 severity, there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death compared to earlier in the pandemic.
“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” said Greta Massetti, PhD, MPH, MMWR author. “We also have a better understanding of how to protect people from being exposed to the virus, like wearing high-quality masks, testing, and improved ventilation. This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.” [see the link above for all detailed updates] …
Actions to take will continue to be informed by the COVID-19 Community Levels, launched in February. CDC will continue to focus efforts on preventing severe illness and post-COVID conditions, while ensuring everyone have the information and tools, they need to lower their risk.
This updated guidance is intended to apply to community settings. In the coming weeks CDC will work to align stand-alone guidance documents, such as those for healthcare settings, congregate settings at higher risk of transmission, and travel, with today’s update.
This press release doesn’t necessarily say what the CDC is currently planning to recommend in terms of travel but it gives some hope that changes are in the works. The U.S. is one of the few countries that still require a vaccine for entering its borders. Europe doesn’t have this rule and even countries such as Thailand dropped the provision in favor of a test in case someone hasn’t received the vaccine.
The Biden administration implemented this rule in November of 2021:
The testing requirement for U.S. bound travel has since ended (In June):
If this rule is still reflecting contemporary, scientific knowledge about Covid is controversial. One might argue that it makes more sense to provide a negative test for travel if unvaccinated and that those travelers who might be concerned are already immunized themselves.
There have been several high-profile cases where people couldn’t travel to the U.S. due to not having received the vaccine, including tennis-pro Novak Djokovic for whom even important political figures like a few U.S. Senators advocated to receive an exemption clearance. That particular discussion was rather moot, in my opinion. The U.S. government won’t issue an exemption for a sports figure to circumvent immigration law just to play tennis and basically make a mockery of the rules.
The case does highlight, however, that it might be time to rethink this policy which is now rather outdated, and should make space for more contemporary measures, if any. It’s unclear what effect this has on the U.S. economy right now. For sure, it deters some people from traveling there but is it enough to move the needle?
The CDC has published a communique this week highlighting some changes in recommendations pertaining to Covid and the press release ended with the notion that In the coming weeks CDC will work to align stand-alone guidance documents, such as those for healthcare settings, congregate settings at higher risk of transmission, and travel.
This could mean anything or nothing. Whatever recommendation it would be, the final decision about rescinding the rule would stay with the President. Does the administration really care about this (or much else) right now? Considering the important mid-term elections are three months away this might have a slight impact although since U.S. citizens aren’t affected by the rule, I don’t expect it to make as much difference as for example, the testing requirement which also applied to and angered Americans returning from abroad.