Boosters To Be Required For Travel As Europe Pushes New Restrictions

The European Union wants member countries to require boosters for entry proposing that vaccination be considered valid for 9 months from last shot. Each country sets its own rules but bloc-wide guidance is influential.

Does that mean we’ll need to keep getting vaccinated in order to travel? No, it actually doesn’t mean that.

First of all, though, boosters work. They’re working very well.

We should think of boosters as third doses. Maybe the first two doses of mRNA vaccines would have worked better spread farther apart (3 weeks between Pfizer doses is insane, this wasn’t an ideal dosing regiment based on science but a design to get through trials quickly in a pandemic and get shots in arms).

Numerous vaccines require three shots. This isn’t unusual. A third shot may suffice for two reasons,

  1. Our bodies may develop greater immune memory after the third shot

  2. By the time a fourth shot might be needed, if it indeed is, prevalence of the virus could be low enough that it’s no longer required.

Remember that flu shots are annual but they do not actually last a year. They’re protective for around six months, and of course the effectiveness of flu shots is much lower than that of Covid-19 vaccines developed in the U.S. and Europe. Flu viruses mutate far more quickly than SARS-CoV-2. But antibodies wane quickly so even when the shot is well-matched to circulating viruses it doesn’t last. We don’t get it every six months though, just in advance of flu season.

Fourth doses may be needed in Israel and other places that vaccinated early, and that are taking a conservative approach to the virus and travel. But they probably won’t be required everywhere. And we could see an end to the requirement at some point, probably later than makes sense based on any science, because no political decision-maker wants to be blamed for outbreaks from lifting restrictions on foreigners ‘too early’.

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “ Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel”
    ….and now medicine!

  2. Works for me. I have a trip planned for Sweden in mid May and scheduled my Pfizer booster for this coming Tuesday (11/30) which is about 7 1/2 months after my 2nd vaccine shot. I didn’t consider the month and a half wait to be a major issue since I have a healthy immune system and initial direction was booster after 8 months (since changed to 6). Also, even though effectiveness against catching COVID drops off there is still significant protection against significant illness and hospitalization.

    My reasoning was the it is likely the booster will be required to be considered “fully vaccinated” and, while 9 months is the current logic, it isn’t unreasonable to assume some countries require a booster within months of travel so I waited until 11/30 to be within 6 months of my trip to Sweden.

    Planning a trip to Italy for fall 2022 and will gladly get a 4th shot next summer if recommended.

  3. sorry for leaving out a word – last sentence in 2nd paragraph should read “… require a booster within 6 months of travel ….”

  4. Absolutely not a f chance. 4th booster will be considered vaccinated. 5th booster will be considered vaccinated. 6th booster etc. Do you not see where this leads? We have ZERO understanding of the long term dangers and cumulative risks of putting this sht into our bodies. The toxicity and activation of the immune system from these shots needs to be better understood before we end up inflicting widespread autoimmune conditions on broad swarths of the population. These people have lost their minds. DO NOT COMPLY

  5. Gary – As a physician (who has taken care of innumerable covid patients!) – all your covid takes, analyses and lingo are 100% correct! Don’t stop and ignore the haters!

  6. FYI I live in the Netherlands, and most countries in Europe (Netherlands, Italy, France, Germany, etc) now require a QR code to go into any indoor space. The CDC card will get you access to enter the EU, but because there is no QR code to validate that it is real, many restaurants and indoor spaces won’t allow the CDC card for access.

  7. @sam, actually treatments will be coming soon that will greatly reduce the death and hospitalization rates, making it less likely that the unvaccinated keep crowding our ICUs and morgues. In the meantime eliminate those deadly words, “regardless of vaccination status.” which make it convenient for unvaccinated people to spread disease, and keep the rest of us from fully enoying all areas of life. I applaud the European moves here.

  8. The problem with booster requirements is that the vaccines are quite strong, especially for younger people. While the elderly often have few side effects, my wife and I, and many of our 30 something friends, were on our back for two days after the second dose. In my case, it was the most sick I have been in my adult life.

    I was overjoyed to be vaccinated. Don’t get me wrong. But it is a huge burden on young folks to require continued boosters with these effects in exchange for a fairly minor change in our own personal risk. Much more sensible is to encourage boosters among the elderly and immunosuppressed.

  9. 90% of Democrats have been vaccinated

    56% of Qanon-believing Republicans have been vaccinated.

    The continuing pandemic is among older, ignorant predominantly white people..especially men.

    Okay. It’s their choice. But the unvaxxed must not be allowed a hospital bed which is needed for someone who isn’t a moron.

  10. @Gary, let me first say that I am “Fully Vaccinated” (Moderna for doses 1 and 2 back in early January and early February, 2021), with my “booster dose” about 6 weeks ago (also Moderna). And I encourage everyone possible to be vaccinated.

    And let me also add that I am a physician (not Infectious Disease, but as an Oncologist I have certainly seen more than my share of immunocompromised patients, and highly susceptible patients, etc.).

    The vaccines work as intended: they prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death in the large majority of patients. So they are successful. But they do not prevent infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (unfortunately), and they appear to not prevent a fully vaccinated person who becomes infected from subsequently transmitting the virus to others (very unfortunately).

    We simply do not really know yet whether this “booster dose” truly was needed (probably the benefit outweighs the risk). And we certainly don’t know whether a “fourth dose” will be required. And maybe most importantly, as @sam says above, we really do not know of the long-term consequences of stimulating B-cell and T-cell proliferation against the spike protein (we already know that some antibodies that result are apparently targeted toward an epitope of a protein in the myocardium that can cause myocarditis in some people). We just don’t know enough yet to really be “willy nilly” injecting dose after dose, after dose, after dose into people.

    Unfortunately, the environment around these is so politically charged that anyone who disagrees with persistent injections of these vaccines is labeled as “anti-vaxxer”, and is dismissed as a “right wing crackpot”.

    The good news is that we have therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies, and new additional ones (such as protease inhibitors, nucleoside analogs, and other) on the market or on the horizon. Thus, I hope that before we jump headlong into “the next dose” (#4, or #5, or #6) that we (a) figure out what the safety parameters of this really look like, and (b) whether we can use a combination of vaccination (2 or 3 doses, max) with “rescue therapies” (monoclonal antibodies, anti-viral drugs) in a reasoned combination.


  11. since I don’t know what’s in the bottle, I will not be taking the vaccine. I’m glad I’m not a person that loves flying on airplanes. LOL

  12. I suppose DNN, overbite-addled mouth agape, “knows what’s in” any pill of hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, or other miracle cure demanded of hospital staff when he’s choking on his own disgusting secretions.

  13. thank you for your balanced and responsible comments, Dr. Sparks.
    Let’s not forget that there are a few companies that are making lots of money and have every reason to keep this pandemic going as long as they can.
    It is well past time for government and educational researchers to take the lead in determining the efficacy of vaccines among all populations – with full disclosure of any financial ties – instead of relying on manufacturer research to make public health decisions.

    The danger of allowing the private sector to police itself as a replacement to full government oversight should be abundantly clear from the host of problems that Boeing is having across multiple product lines.

  14. #BoostersForLife. Was always the plan for a leaky non-sterilizing vaccine. The CIC want this to never end, despite the virus being dangerous to only 0.2% of humanity. Absolute antiscientific nonsense under the guise of health.

  15. Manuel, you are SO right! This is insane! It’s going to be a YEARLY thing, just like the flu sho, which we all know it does NOT work, period! People get the flu shot and still get the flu, people get the vaccine shot and get covid…
    Sorry, but that’s my view on this whole thing, and I think we all should respect each other’s view point. Some of us get this supossed miracle vaccine and some of us don’t.
    And we all express our thought and feeling on this, period end of story!

  16. @Mike – there are ways for US citizens to load data into an app which allows access indoors in EU countries. I have a trip to Germany in March and Sweden in May. I’ll make sure I have proper access documents well before the trip which shouldn’t be a problem

  17. Typically, an effective vaccine requires just a single shot and that was and is always the goal. The problem was that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were found to be not sufficiently effective after the first dose. The work around these rather mediocre (in terms of effectiveness) vaccines was to give a booster short in 3-4 weeks. Johnson & Johnson got somewhat better efficiency after the first dose and this is why the company went with a single shot. Now, it turned out that even after the two injection the immunity for the most the folks does not last long. Generally, this would be considered as an epic failure (except those companies already made a lot of $$) but without better alternatives these vaccines are the best defense we got now. To conclude, personally, I cannot call those shots “highly successful vaccines”. Of course, Sar-cov2 is also an RNA virus so it mutates quickly. Then the largely vaccinated population would provide for a natural selection of the variants that would evade the vaccine immunity and I would be surprised to see such new strains taking over.
    Regarding travel news, the Europe is considering 9 month as the expiration date for vaccine passports and it is still unclear for me if one can get such a passport with the US CDC card. This would be good to know.

  18. To all the anti-vaxxers out there, as far as I am concerned, don’t take the vaccines. I live in Malta, and we don’t allow unvaccinated people into Malta. So we won’t have to have you wasting space in our hospitals. And neither will any country in the EU.

    Your choice, you get to make it. We get to make our choice, too.

  19. I am in favor of denying the unvaccinated access to healthcare. But then I felt the same about Gay men having unprotected anal sex and getting AIDS. They have a better PR than poor whites and blacks though, so at the time my opinions was not well-received.

  20. @Alan
    …..but Kameltoeyo Harris told everyone NOT to get the vaccine and Dementia Brandon nodded in agreement.

  21. “But the unvaxxed must not be allowed a hospital bed which is needed for someone who isn’t a moron.” Why stop there? Overweight? You’re out too. Smoker? Too bad go somewhere else to die. Not wearing a seat belt? No transport to the hospital. Die at home. The list goes on.

  22. Exactly. Alan just reeks of liberal do as I say not as I do. Kind of person who would pass judgement but pretends he is pure Christian.

  23. Fact:
    There is no long term data on the Covid vaccines and how many is the right number. We simply don’t know we can continue to try and believe a hypothesis that makes us feel better in our own minds about getting it. Only time will tell.

  24. I never realized until I came here that everyone has interchangeable expertise. So looks like I can get infectious disease advice from anyone called a physician or an expert in travel. Can I use like reasoning and see an infectious disease expert about travel advice and cancer treatments?

  25. @Fathiss,

    If the experts the last few years hadn’t been seemingly disingenuous and possibly political, with dissenting expert opinions being quite publicly erased or censored they would have much more faith in them than they do in this late hour. They have created the distrust and second guessing they have today even if they might be 100% correct.

  26. To all the self-righteous “vax4evah” folx who want to deny health care to the unvaccinated, I say we should deny health care to all fat folx. Old people can’t help being old, but fat people can help being fat and they are disproportionately getting severe COVID-19 and dying. There are plenty of other conditions the fat suffer from that impose excess costs on the health care system.

    As for the “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” take a look at the UK government’s COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report (p. 33). For most adult cohorts, the case rate is more than twice as high among the vaccinated than the unvaccinated. Are the vaccinated infecting the unvaccinated? Sure, the vaccine does seem to prevent serious illness and death, but why do you care if an unvaccinated deplorable gets very sick and dies? Your righteous vaccinated self will likely survive.

    A study just published by the CDC concludes “clinicians and public health practitioners should consider vaccinated persons who become infected with SARS-CoV-2 to be no less infectious than unvaccinated persons.”

    The vaccines are far less effective than the jetpacks we were promised. Of course, overpromising and underdelivering is standard practice for the public health authorities.

  27. Any tourist fully vaccinated can get their EU QR code if they fly to Europe.
    Go to the website of the embassy of the EU country you are flying to and they have instructions on how to get a QR code by email for non-EU citizens.
    Once you have an EU QR code, it is valid in all EU countries.

  28. Was just in Italy and showed the stupid paper card. No one cares, it’s just a check the box.

    Love how it’s always stupid Republicans not getting the vax when in reality the group overwhelmingly not vaccinated are minorities which don’t vote Republican last time I checked. But that’s inconvenient for liberals.

    Gary is such trash. Make sure you have an ad blocked up so he gets no revenue.

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