New U.S. Entry Policy Will Shut Out Millions Of Vaccinated Travelers

The U.S. move to welcome vaccinated visitors is being viewed mostly as an ‘opening up’ because it means the end to the ban on travelers who’ve been in China, Iran, the European Schengen area, U.K. and Ireland, Brazil, South Africa or India in the prior 14 days.

However it’s also a closing down to unvaccinated travelers from other countries not on that list, even when presenting with a recent negative test for Covid-19.

And it’s even a closing down for travelers who have been vaccinated – just not with a vaccine on the approved list. The U.S. will accept any vaccine that is FDA approved with an emergency use authorization (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson) or which has World Health Organization authorization.

WHO approval adds AstraZeneca (including Covidshield) and Chinese vaccines from Sinopharm, and Sinovac to the list. Russia’s Sputnik vaccine is notably not accepted by the U.S. for travel, though it’s approved in 70 countries including Hungary and Slovakia and Mexico has ordered 24 million doses. India’s Covaxin is also not accepted. Individuals receiving these vaccines will be shut out of the United States in a matter of weeks.

A vaccine requirement involves several difficult questions.

  • Which vaccines to accept?
  • On what dosing schedule? For instance, the U.S. approved two Pfizer doses three weeks apart but is administering doses 8-12 week apart acceptable?
  • And in what dosing amount, for instance some countries have expanded access to vaccines and stretched supplies by using half doses.
  • How will vaccination be considered valid for – in other words, will boosters be required and if so on what schedule?

There’s no question that Sputnik trials have been messy and there have been questions raised about the data but the U.S. will accept Sinovac which was reportedly 51% effective against symptomatic disease prior to the introduction of current variants and according to the World Health Organization there is “no substantive data available” suggesting this vaccine reduces infection or transmission of the virus.

Only half the people in my home state of Texas are fully vaccinated, so surely anyone entering the U.S. after receiving the Sputnik shot has at least average protection. And since a negative Covid-19 test is necessary to enter the U.S. as well, Sputnik-vaccinated travelers seem less likely than the median Texan to be infectious (although this is somewhat dependent on the level of immunity in the state from prior infection).

Indeed, immunity from prior infection plus Sputnik should well be more protective than vaccines on the approved list for entry into the U.S. Immunity from prior infection alone may be more protective than Sinovac Coronavac.

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. One of the key issues that seems to be left out of many stories such as this is attempting to create rules that ensures visitors to the US don’t end up in the hospital and add to our overstretched medical infrastructure at this time. While I don’t have a good answer as to which vaccines should and shouldn’t be allowed, ensuring that these visitors (1) don’t bring more covid cases into the US and (2) don’t end up in a US hospital bed if they contract covid here is important.

  2. I’m also curious to see what the rules are for mixed vaccines. Many Canadians got an AstraZeneca followed by a Pfizer or Moderna.

  3. Trying to control covid by stopping it at the border has to be one of the lowest yield public health priorities.

  4. You miss the point that none of this applies if entering the US via the southern border. Until that loophole is closed, we will continue to be overwhelmed with unvaccinated and untested “visitors “.

  5. We have a wide open Southern border with a incentives to come here and stay forever. No vax required, no testing, no vax offered. At least one million entered illegally so far, probably far higher.

    Please dont say the US Government is serious about slowing or stopping Covid.

  6. The Biden administration couldn’t care less about the airline industry or travelers from Europe or Asia because they don’t vote in big enough numbers to warrant the pandering (which is what they do with groups they do give a rip about).

  7. Agree. Totally ridiculous not to accept Sputnik, which is much better protection than around 40% of unvaccinated Americans have. It’s not like we can keep Covid out at this point.

  8. Where do you get your information? The Vaccinated have higher viral loads and are catching covid more than the unvaccinated plus more are in the hospital. Most of my patients are vaccine injured now in the hospital I work at. My hospital has been lying about the case numbers and deaths like most hospitals that recieved funding from the US government. Ask any nurse willing to be honest that’s not fearful of being honest like myself. You’d be shocked if you really knew the truth.

  9. @Sam – Great point!

    I honestly completely missed that this applies to all countries when it was first announced. Yikes! I understand why we’d do it (overwhelmed resources), but I also personally know folks that want to come here specifically to GET vaccinated, because their countries don’t have vaccine supplies. I can’t help but feel that we’re trading one awful situation for another with this.

  10. Please remember many of the unvaccinated have had Covid and their immunities are stronger than from the vaccine.

  11. Chinese vaccine acceptance is a bit meaningless as very few individuals in China will want to travel to the US because the return means a very long quarantine in local hotels.

  12. Uncle Joe and his entire administration are dumb as rocks… this is all useless. I am part of the problem, I voted for the moron 🙁

  13. Immunity from prior infection is highly variable. In some cases, a healthy person got Covid a second time. Therefore, while prior infection may have benefits, I would still advise 2 shots plus booster.

  14. Who the hell is Tamara???? She’s a flat-out liar. My neighbor is an ER doc. He had been intubating 2-3 patients PER SHIFT, all of them unvaccinated.

  15. Gary, Sputnik is an excellent vaccine and will probably be approved eventually, but their quality control leaves a lot to be desired (read about the recent scandal in Brazil). In addition, it still hasn’t been approved by the WHO or EMA. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to err on the side of caution.

    On an unrelated note, more nutheads than usual are here today, but, oh well, the more the merrier.

  16. Chinese vaccines should be banned to enter U.S. as we should all remember where COVID-19 come from and kill so many Americans

  17. All smoke and mirrors. Been down in Del Rio and Laredo. Thousands upon thousands of unvaccinated Haitians and Central Americans.

    Most are refusing the vaccine and many are being flown to where they want to go in the U.S.

  18. Gary, I know you like to give people free reign to comment. But really, posts like Tamara’s that are 100% false are a disservice to everyone and to the battle to get past this catastrophe.

    The government has consistently been inconsistent in its policies regarding travel. I am all for banning people from travel who are from places where they have had a chance to get vaccinated but chose not to. On the other hand, in the case of countries with poor access, it would be acceptable to require instead a testing regime both prior to and upon arrival, and documented consent to receive a vaccine upon arrival.

  19. Hey Tamara , where do you work ? I am a nurse of 40 years and I am seeing the exact opposite of what you claim . My daughter is a doctor and she is overwhelmed with post-covid patients that will never be the same all because they listened to idiots like you. People have been their own worst enemies for many years by not following medical advice ( obesity, smoking , drugs etc.) but this really takes the cake. When there is no room for the idiot unvaccinated adults in the ER I pray that they turn them away . I am used to being around sickness and death but never before have I seen people self destruct at this rate.

  20. Delete “Tamara’s” comment. This is a public health emergency and flat out lies are killing people.

  21. MissyRN-Are you also praying that the idiot obese drug addicted chain smokers are turned away?

  22. Tamara-I hope you are real and honest. If so, I definitely understand why you can’t come forward. In any case if anyone wants to know the truth from government reporting of the Israeli’s issues they should check it out. Their large majority of vaccinated people offer a great case study in vaccine failure.

  23. Since NONE of the vaccines seems to be durable, and none of them are sterilizing (the recipients still transmit Covid), all of the vaccines should be accepted. As should unvaccinated travellers, perhaps with a pre-departure Covid test if you want to be anal about it. Of course, there is no chance that this Administration will doing anything rational with Covid policy.

  24. @DaveS — “… posts like Tamara’s that are 100% false are a disservice to everyone and to the battle to get past this catastrophe.”

    #1. Are you aware that fully vaccinated people *can* still get infected with at least similar, if not higher, viral loads as those who are *not* vaccinated, and can, therefore, continue to be able to spread their infections to many others —

    #2. Hospitals worldwide *are* getting overloaded, but with patients that have been *fully* vaccinated, instead of with those who are *not* vaccinated —

    #3. I could go on and on and on … but you should get the idea, by now …

  25. There is no reason why domestic unvaccinated travelers should be allowed. We’re in a pandemic, do everything possible to save lives and return to normalcy instead of accelerating to the 700,000th death.

  26. Given that the Sec’y of Homeland Security said today that he was “surprised” at the number of covid cases along the southern border, the problem is not what Americans are doing between themselves but what those in authority over us are doing to us.
    It is no surprise that death rates in Texas are far outweighing every other state by a wide margin.

  27. Oh no, @Tim Dunn is back — along with a few others of his ilk. Be gone, racists! See white supremacy crumbling before your eyes… The problem for the US is not the Haitians seeking refuge at the southern border but the obese and unvaccinated hordes drinking the Kool Aid doled out by Trump and his cult followers such as @Tamara. Anyway, good to see Trumpists committing mass suicide a la Jonestown. What’s the latest stat, @Tamara?

  28. If someone has an ineffective vaccine they shouldn’t be allowed in the US. End of story. We don’t need foreigners coming here and then taking up hospital space if they get infected. If they have a proper vaccine the chance of them needing hospitalization if they even get infected is extremely reduced. The numbers you cite with sinovac are very misleading though. Sinovac is pretty effective at keeping people out of hospitals, which is one of the primary concerns when it comes to foreign tourists. It is just not very effective at preventing symptomatic infections compared to some of the other vaccines.

  29. Interesting how this story gained legs here and elsewhere, where, apparently, this is just an anti-Russian conspiracy. Much to the delight of some anti-vaxers.
    I prefer a less exciting and mundane, but also more likely explanation: Lazy bureaucrats. It’s just easier to use somebody else’s list (FDA, WHO, et al) than make up your own real one.
    That’s likely about how much thought went into it. To think otherwise is giving our public servants (sic) too much credit.

  30. “Ordered” is not the same as “approved”. It is true, that Slovakia ordered 200k Sputnik vaccines from Russia, bu they have never been approved by Slovak regulator. As a result, only 18.5k people have registered for the vaccine. This was one of the factors that led to the downfall of the then prime minister Igor Matovic.

  31. Incredibly, since it’s well known that those who have received the holy jab can both spread the virus and contract it, these rules/edicts are as ridiculous as most everything else done during this scam.

  32. So my family in Mexico who received COVAXIN are not allowed? USA is broken…..its not like our vaccine prevents anything!

  33. Paulz they can come in illegally and it is OK!!
    Segments and rjb I am impressed with your comments… keeping this site real… you are so right..
    also Tim Dunn and Jared…illegals coming in by the testing some visibly sick but taken all over the US… Texas is a mess thanks to our current regime….
    SMR –Hope you fix it next time and vote the other way….
    Love these comments but not the obnoxoius…left braindead like Indopithecus(extinct species of large APES???)DEE

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