CDC Revises Guidelines, Now Says If You’re Vaccinated Go Travel!

For the past few weeks I’ve been making the case that the science is clear, vaccines protect both the person who is vaccinated and protect others from spread. Despite CDC guidance up until now, it makes sense to travel once you’re vaccinated.

Some readers have said ‘I’ll trust the CDC director not the science you.’ Even though it was political interference with the CDC that kept them from updating travel guidance.

Fortunately the CDC has now come around and revised its guidelines to allow travel once you’re vaccinated.

Americans who are fully vaccinated can travel “at low risk to themselves,” both within the United States and internationally, but they must continue to take precautions like wearing a mask in public, avoiding crowds, maintaining social distancing and washing hands frequently, federal health officials said on Friday.

It’s not travel that’s driving spread of the virus and certainly not travel by those who have been vaccinated. It’s the activities we undertake, whether at home or at a destination. And it’s especially activities being undertaken by those not yet vaccinated.

Although the first dose of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech appear to be about as effective as a one-dose regimen of Johnson & Johnson, the CDC says to wait until two weeks after your second shot if getting one of the two mRNA vaccines.

Nearly everyone who is able to get a Covid-19 vaccine should do so. And once that happens vaccine passports won’t even be necessary. That idea is a bridge to open travel when people are still vulnerable to Covid-19. But vaccination reduces the risk of serious disease, it reduces the risk of spread, and it reduces the risk of overwhelming hospitals and preventing them from giving the best possible care to the sick. We need to rush supply to the world.

Update: Logic hasn’t entirely prevailed because the CDC Director has added, “While we believe that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases.”

Fully vaccinated people face “low risk to themselves.” CDC research this week confirms other research that full vaccinated people face low risk to others. The CDC won’t tell vaccinated people not to travel. But they won’t recommend it either. Is it too much to ask for a CDC Director who speaks both clearly and candidly with the public?

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. I’d love to know why the CDC is dragging its feet to move to the phased reopening of cruises. The conditional sailing order from last year is outdated, only mentions vaccines in a few places (and references them under development and not the fact that we now have them), and doesn’t give the cruise lines clear guidance on what’s needed for the next steps.

    Test cruises haven’t even started yet to ascertain if the protocols put in place by the cruise lines work (test cruises would trigger a 60-90 days before allowing passengers to board). It looks like CDC is about to write off 2021 for cruises also. Very disappointing and makes no sense since passengers can distance and be out in the open air.

  2. “Nearly everyone who is able to get a Covid-19 vaccine should do so.”
    You should have a chat with your BA colleague Brian (The Gate) about this.
    By late summer, most travel may be without face masks if we reach herd immunity.

  3. Alas, while in the USA vaccine appointments may become widely available in the coming weeks, many countries are yet to even meaningfully start their vaccination programs. Even developed countries that have done a relatively good job of containing the COVID-19 (e.g. Australia) are yet to do a good job at vaccinations, let alone those countries that haven’t done a good job at both levels. At an international level, it may be years until the bridge you mention isn’t necessary. Furthermore, given that we don’t know about the longevity of vaccine protection, we may never cross that bridge if we constantly need to get followup doses…

  4. Note that fully vaccinated people still need to get a negative COVID test when flying into the US from another country, so people should hold off unless they can work remotely or take an extra 2 weeks off of work if they test positive (as the vaccines are only ~90% effective and still have a decent chance of a positive, even if asymptomatic, test).

  5. @Michael, that’s a good question and while the answer is not yet definitive there have been recent studies showing a number of people getting infected a second time. There is still much unknown but so far the consensus seems to be that, in terms of protection, having had covid is not equivalent at all to having been vaccinated. This is why the unequivocal recommendation is that people who have had covid need to get the vaccine. Earlier there had been hope that previous infection would provide more protection but so far it seems that is not the case. They are also finding that those with “long covid” symptoms have benefited greatly from vaccines (e.g. regaining sense of smell and taste, as well as other neurological symptoms).

  6. I’ve been on the side of ‘Covid is real, wear a mask, gathering in groups is playing Russian Roulette
    with society, etc etc…basically what the Covid deniers call a liberal over reactor….now I think the time to put all that away knowing it saved lives is rapidly approaching. Once everyone who wants a vaccine has had theirs the restrictions need to go away and the focus has to be on recovery.
    We can’t maintain restrictions based on the what will be this summer way lower chance of dying from Covid.
    In the State of Washington it came out that of over a million people who got vaccinated there were about 100 break through cases, all of them were either asymptomatic or very mild cases.
    Proof of just how well the vaccines work.
    We can all live with that.
    This summer is going to be a very heavy travel season is my take.
    (Both fully vaccinated wife and I will be on the road for the next two weeks!)

  7. Weird where you mention the part about low risk but then leave out the next line “”However, international travel poses additional risks and even fully vaccinated travelers are at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants.” Almost like you are trying to cherry pick what you want your readers to see. By the way the CDC is still saying that travel spreads the virus no matter how many times you try to claim otherwise. It is rather obnoxious. We know the virus didn’t make it around the world on its own. It spread around the world based on travel. Stop being disingenuous.

  8. @Bill – Travel to Michigan isn’t currently lower risk than travel to Britain or Israel. Leaving out the full set of platitudes doesn’t change the meaning.

  9. My understanding, and correct me if I am wrong here, is that you can still be infected even after vaccination but with no symptoms, no hospitalization, and no death. Wouldn’t that mean that you can still be a carrier and transmit the virus to others who haven’t been vaccinated?

  10. GLeff needs to realize some commenters are going to become even more unhinged the closer and closer we get to all restrictions being removed. For commenters like Bill their bone to pick is with Biden, not Gary. New Zealand among others showed the concept of zero covid is possible. The Biden administration has decided some level of deaths are acceptable otherwise they would have shutdown international flights with the exception of mandatory hotel quarantine for returning citizens.

  11. @Kalboz, I think I just heard recently there is very strong evidence that you also are highly likely not to be able to spread it as well, if you are vaccinated. Even if you are infected. Still can’t become ill or spread it. It may not be 100% certain about not spreading it but highly likely so I would still wear a mask to protect there if that’s your point, I would agree with that. But wanted you to know that’s what I’d heard, high confidence that you can’t spread it.

  12. Not too sure that we can write off 2021 cruising just yet. We now have more science and data on the vaccines and it is clear that for a period of time, people vaccinated have protection for themselves and others. We also have cruise data in Europe that shows cruising can happen without much risk. Cruise lines have been announcing that people will initially have to be vaccinated to cruise and I think that is a wise decision. It limits risk. There will be more science and data coming in the future about how long the protection last and how often we may need to have additional vaccine shots. I think it’s possible that the CDC will scrap the “conditional sail order” currently in place and issue another that will actually start cruising back up in the near future. Hope so. I also have several cruises in the pipeline and do want to be on those ships.

  13. @Kalboz – the phase 3 trials of vaccines in the U.S. weren’t designed to answer whether they prevented transmission, just symptomatic disease. So it wasn’t certain at the time of approval that they’d reduce transmission although there was strong suggestive evidence. Since then we’ve seen research showing substantial reduction in transmission, for instance – 94% in Israel (Pfizer-BioNTech), 90% in a new CDC study released this week (Pfizer and Moderna).

  14. The “know-it-all” vibe of your Covid-related posts is getting pretty tiresome. We get it Gary…you have all the answers and can’t possibly be wrong.

  15. The vaccine works to prevent serious illness and death to the extent that the risk posed by Covid is overwhelmed by the normal risks of life we accept everyday without thought. Once you’re vaccinated, Covid is over for you, full stop. From that point travel and live like you did in 2019.

  16. Why anyone cares what the CDC has to say about this is beyond me. I feel sorry for anyone who has been “waiting” to travel or visit family because the CDC told them not to. The CDC has zero credibility.

  17. I am so excited to watch all the people who were so wrong about Covid – walk back their comments.

    The proof is clear:
    lockdowns do NOTHING.
    Masks – do, almost nothing.
    IFR – .15% (LESS DEADLY THAN THE FLU for people under 70)

    Economic disaster hurt more people can covid.
    Global supply chain is a disaster.
    Millions starved
    More suicides.


    People are waking up.
    Fauci was wrong.
    The politicians were wrong.
    The media made BIG dollars.
    Social Media spread panic and fear.

    The sheep all went along with this shill. And now as the data is there, for anyone to see… we will start seeing the ‘walk back’

    “Oh, well, we were just being cautious.”
    “2 weeks to flatten the curve was good, but 52 weeks was better”

    The world population has grown by some 30 million people during Covid.
    It’s about time we move on to real problems and not this internet sob story.

    #Fauci for Prison 2022

  18. @jm
    You don’t have to read this blog, it is not mandatory
    You are right, I never stopped traveling and never asked the government for permission

  19. Doin- 2,600 fewer suicides in the USA despite the right wingers flogging that hypothesis all the time- numbers out today.

    I do think this has some implications for business travel too- there are probably lots of corporate risk management departments who have indeed been going by CDC recs through the course of the pandemic.

  20. The current CDC Director has shown to be utterly incompetent, spending more time being a histrionic on Twitter than a well informed professional. She MUST go.

  21. CDC director also said today ““While we believe fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases”. So no the CDC is most certainly NOT saying go travel the way that it is claimed in the headline.

  22. Excellent post, Don. I keep wondering when the sheep, highly represented on this blog, will wake up and realize they been lied to for the past year. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you haven’t done the work.

    “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” Charles MacKay

  23. I remain astonished at some of these and other comments regarding Gary’s blog. I have lived all over Europe as well as in Iran and traveled extensively all over the world and have loved it. Whatever you may believe, these vaccines are new and there is much to be studied and learned about their protective ability and longevity. What is said today might be wrong tomorrow. I want to know more before I place myself in a situation where I shouldn’t be. It’s called risk tolerance.

    If you think masks and isolation don’t work take a look at Thailand. 70 million people and 94 deaths.

  24. @Don is a blithering idiot. Every supposed ‘fact’ he states is categorically false. I wonder who he hires to tie his shoes.

  25. “Why anyone cares what the CDC has to say about this is beyond me.”
    Bingo! And why are so many people so willing to let nameless, faceless bureaucrats tell them what they can and can’t do. These are guidelines. Decide for yourself whether it’s safe for you given the particular situation or not.

  26. Just because the CDC states it’s ok to cruise doesn’t mean that other nations will admit you. Check each countries website for admission requirements-so far France, UK, Germany & Switzerland will not admit tourists.

  27. Calm down.
    Show me a government or business entity that doesn’t err on the side of caution.

  28. @Steven offers the logical fallacy known as “confusing correlation and causation.


    @Ralph one up’s him with the classic Ad hominem. Nice work!

  29. My company doesn’t believe that the CDC is assessing risks correctly and still bans all travel. Most of my friends are in the same situation.

    I am fully vaccinated but believe that the private sector knows best, and am not traveling.

    The CDC is too eager to please the populists and has done a terrible job in allowing Americans to go suffer through multiple waves of pandemic instead of stopping it after the first like many countries did.

  30. Gary: “CDC Revises Guidelines, Now Says If You’re Vaccinated Go Travel!”

    CDC: “CDC is not recommending travel at this time due to the rising number of cases.”


  31. Straight from the horse’s mouth: “All trial participants WILL CONTINUE to be monitored to ASSESS LONG-TERM PROTECTION and SAFETY for an ADDITIONAL TWO YEARS after their second dose.” (caps mine)
    Data from this study, including longer term safety, comprehensive information on duration of protection, efficacy against asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, and safety and immunogenicity in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age will be gathered in the months ahead. Additional studies are planned to evaluate BNT162b2 in pregnant women, children younger than 12 years, and those in special risk groups, such as the immunocompromised.
    BNT162b2 has been authorized or approved for emergency use in several countries around the world including the U.K., Bahrain, and Canada. The companies have filed a request for Emergency Use Authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have submitted the final Conditional Marketing Authorization Application (CA) following rolling submissions with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and several other regulatory agencies around the world.

  32. I see everyone is worried about people flying that have not had the shot! Ridiculous, when we have thousands crossing the border every day that have COVID and are infecting everyone

  33. Been traveling the US pretty extensively since May last year. Shame people let fear and lack of understanding control their lives. Glad the CDC says I can do something. Good thing I don’t care what they think.

  34. The CDC is controlled by politicians and influenced by the large pharmaceutical companies who by the way influence politicians as well. At the end of the day if you want to know what’s really going on simply follow the money.

  35. it is not a vaccine,it is a shot and it is no different than the flu shot. people who have had the the shot, can still spread and still get the corona virus. who is the dumbass that wrote this article

  36. I traveled last year and a couple trips so far this year and I got zero shots for chit.

  37. In November 2019, after returning from Hong Kong, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with “viral pneumonia”. I had lost my sense of smell, taste, etc. Months later this was called Covid.

    I have travelled every week since then and have received the Pfizer shots.

    At no point do I or will I care what the WHO or CDC say about whether I should travel or not.

    Yes, I happily wear a mask because it might help protect me and others from many viral and bacterial diseases. I also happily wear shoes, to protect me from ringworm and tetanus. It is easier to put on one mask than two socks and two shoes.

  38. CDC Revises Guidelines, Now Says If You’re Vaccinated Go Travel! Would like to cruise. What’s the problem?

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