Tell Me That Vaccinated People Can’t Travel Now, I Dare You

The CDC tried to revise its guidelines for travel based on the science, but they were blocked by the Biden administration from doing so. CDC guidance still remains not to travel.

But the science tells us something different. I outlined much of what we know about vaccines and what that means for travel, from researchers studying infections and also offered the analysis of medical experts. We know that vaccines both protect the individual and protect others.

Approved vaccines don’t just have outstanding effectiveness against symptomatic Covid-19. They provide near total protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death which is what we care the most about.

And vaccines are being shown to substantially reduce the chance that someone could pick up the virus and spread it without symptoms as well.

We know that’s true about all of the approved vaccines, but the most studied one has been Pfizer-BioNTech. It was the first to be approved, and Israel has great data on vaccinated individuals with this vaccine.

If you’ve held the view that vaccinated people still should not travel then answer this: if someone has had two shots of the Pfizer vaccine and waited two weeks, do you still hold that view in light of 94% effectiveness against asymptomatic infection?

Bear in mind that for someone who does get an asymptomatic infection after vaccination, their viral load will almost certainly be lower than someone who hasn’t been vaccinated. They’re less likely to spread it, and if they do then whomever gets it from them is likely to have a less severe case.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. @Mark Crosby must be proud of yourself! Just like the millions who still think this is just the flu. Karma will come, guaranteed!

  2. Doug Swalen seems to be one of the few (incl Gary) with any sense

    More travel= more chances to spread /mutate = longer time to end of crisis

    We will see another spike, guaranteed, from all this optimism. Spread is exponential. Until vaccination is much more widespread, gotta keep on truckin. Biden admin is of course absolutely right to be so cautious.

    I cannot believe how selfish (or maybe just stupid) some of you are. Would your great-grandparents gut it out 6 more months, if they KNEW doing so would end WW2? So buck up already – waaaah, you can’t go to Cancun.

    I have millions of points I’m sitting on and couldn’t care less. This is (hopefully) the challenge of our lifetime, so quit whining and step up.

    Joe in particular, you can go crawl under your Trump rock.

  3. “. Maybe I’m in the 6%, but it is still possible to be vaccinated and still catch/spread COVID.” exactly this. 6 out of every 100 vaccinated people could still be infected spreading the virus and that is the best case scenario at the moment. In a few months the risk won’t be as great because if most of the people travelling are vaccinated then the chances of the virus spreading goes down a lot. However, at the moment a vaccinated person carrying a variant into a community with low vaccination rates could cause a major surges. Makes sense that the CDC isn’t looking to throw the doors fully open to travel at this point. Vaccination campaigns are most effective when the vast majority of people are vaccinated so that the people who the vaccine does not work for end up being protected based on the sheer numbers of people in the community who the vaccine does work for.

  4. While the liberals slobber on themselves over Americans traveling at will, illegals are crossing the southern border in record numbers carrying who knows what kind of diseases….

  5. The vaccinated people should still be required to wear their masks. The airlines are trying to handle this properly, so I don’t see a travel problem.

  6. The Dunning–Kruger effect in action.

    One way to quickly determine if someone talking about science has any scientific training or the education needed to understand the scientific literature is to see if they speak in absolutes. Do they use phrases like “we know” or “almost certainly”? If they do, and it is not in the context of a press release from an agency trying to speak in layman’s terms, they are likely not fit to be speaking on the subject.

    If they use a second hand source that is talking about preliminary data from a prepublication study that has not been peer reviewed, it’s pretty safe to say they don’t know what they are talking about. So Gary can you link to a well respected journal with a peer reviewed publication that supports your viral load claims?

    I’ll wait.

  7. @Steve – I’m flying domestically this week, and international in 2 weeks. I’ve flown scores of times since the pandemic started and I don’t regret a single one of them.

    Also, I’m going to keep doing it. Enjoy your couch!

  8. OK Gary, vaccinated people can’t travel

    I double dog dare you to say they can 😉

  9. The pandemic is winding down. At the pace of the vaccine role out by the end of May there will be no excuses to keep things locked down. The fear speakers will need a new hobby. Time to start making plans people.

  10. It doesn’t matter what the CDC recommends unless someone with legal authority wants to enforce their recommendations as regulations. After listening to their recommendations decide for yourself, whether you travel. And don’t forget to ignore the stupidity coming out of liberal mouths.

  11. Don’t forget to ignore the stupidity of those saying masks are useless and vaccines are unnecessary. Especially the governors of certain states and the Trump cult.

  12. @Juan – I would be happy to share references of peer-reviewed articles that that masks are ineffective at controlling coronavirus in the community, but I suspect you either wouldn’t bother or wouldn’t understand them.

  13. Absolutely stop traveling now! Selfish people!

    I’ve had the best year ever of travel. Clean, empty planes devoid of whining simps. Airports easy to get around, no lines at security. Hotels so cheap. I could do this for a long, long time.

    Please, stay home. Don’t go out! Don’t be selfish, think of the rest of us really enjoying ourselves.

  14. @Gary Leff, nice try, but your argument is even more flimsy than in your previous recent vaccination pieces.

    The Pfizer vaccine is 94% effective against the 2019 strains. It is far less effective against the 2021 variants – it comes in at 66% LESS effective against the South African variant – and the world’s most widely used vaccine, AstraZeneca, is only 9% effective against it.

    Hardly anyone will remember which jab they have had or what it’s limitations are. And the danger is of a vaccinated American traveller picking up a new variant overseas, experiencing only mild illness because of his own vaccination status, then importing it and starting another wave of deaths.

    This coronavirus mutates much quicker than other Coronaviruses, and at this stage vaccination is about minimising illness and mortality domestically. It is not a licence to travel internationally, not while so many mutations are cropping up.

    The Israeli data relates to old variants, because they have closed their borders. Vaccination works brilliantly at home, behind closed borders.

    But vaccination is not future-proof, and in layman’s terms – remember, I am a doctor – if you are lucky, being vaccinated means that catching a new variant only gives you a cold. But you can transmit that cold onwards – and that’s a big danger, because it will kill vulnerable people rather than giving them a cold.

  15. Gary, you are actually delaying the recovery of the travel industry by encouraging travel right now.

    You are basically creating an optimal condition for the variants that partially evade the vaccines (e.g. the Pfizer vaccine you mentioned sees a drop-off in antibodies of 6~10x against the South African variant) to spread faster before we’ve had a chance to immunize enough people. If almost everyone is vaccinated, the remaining partial *herd* immunity can perhaps be enough of a deterrent to prevent huge outbreaks. If vaccinated people start immediately traveling while the rest of the population is not immunized, that has the effect of preferentially boosting the spread of variants that escape vaccines. In fact, this shows up in the nationwide data from Israel that you so love. Israel is seeing a rapid spike in the South African variant as we speak. The numbers are so far low enough that it’s not a huge problem, but remember, an exponential spread goes from 3% one day to 50% a month later. The future of this is a slightly lesser version of what we see in Brazil today, which had reached herd immunity in many regions but are now seeing another crisis unfold.

    Furthermore, as many epidemiologists have noted, the more you spread the virus before the *general population* has herd immunity, the more chances you give the virus to mutate. If we get a future variant that spreads as fast as the UK variant but also evades vaccines as effectively as the ZA variant, what will the travel industry do with another lost year?

  16. While there will be people that will argue until the cows come home how unsafe it is to travel until there isn’t a single covid case in the world, the US’ case counts and death rates have been falling dramatically.
    100 million does of one of the 3 vaccines have been administered.
    Brazil is now consistently the country with the highest daily new cases and deaths. They have vaccinated just single digit percentages of their population.
    The US and the UK are leading the world in the percentage of their populations that are vaccinated. We are fast approaching a global ethical question (which was foreseen) about sharing the vaccine w/ countries that do not have vaccine manufacturing capabilities.
    But Brazil also just got around to ordering 100 million does of the JnJ vaccine which has them receiving most of their doses in the 2nd half of the year, long after another winter starts down there.

    The JnJ vaccine was specifically tested in S. Africa and Brazil and there were no deaths. The other two US approved vaccines have not been fully tested against new variants but the notion that vaccines aren’t doing the job is simply not based on what is really happening.

    And, as noted, people are returning to the air and to traveling domestically and there is no legal mechanism that has yet been used to stop them from doing so. Governors of the two harshest states are facing recall or calls for resignation. We live in a representative democracy and people are tired of having hypocritical leaders impose unnecessary pain and are exercising their democratic rights. Leaders that want any political future are getting the messsage that they better have compelling evidence, not theories, that lockdowns and restrictions on normal society are needed. The falling US death rates says that vaccinations are solving what lockdowns could not.
    Some European countries are opening for vaccinated visitors while other countries are headed for more lockdowns and per capita death rates that exceed the US. Caribbean ports will be open for the winter cruise season. Alaska wants domestic tourism and is working hard to accommodate the tourists that will come.

    Those that do not think it is safe can stay home. Those that want to can and will travel. It is only a question of how long specific jurisdictions continue their lockdowns before their own people tire of restrictions on their own movement and the global value that comes from tourism.

  17. For some time it’s been established that cloth masks like those many people wear are ineffective at stopping the virus (see the Swiss study on the effectiveness of masks). The reason is that the interstices of the masks are larger than the particles that spread the virus. Even wearing two masks, as was suggested by the $400,000 p.a. advisor to Pres. Biden suggested, isn’t going to stop those particles.

    The N-95 mask is effective in certain circumstances, in hospitals, for example, but it’s a one-time measure that cannot be cleaned and reused.

    Lockdowns were a big mistake, just as keeping school-age children at home because the unionized public school teachers were “afraid” of catching the virus. The public is tired of heavy-handed government officials dictating a behavior that many such officials do no themselves observe.

    As more than one person has said: if you’re afraid of catching the virus, stay home until the all-safe has been sounded.

  18. Its a shame. I used to be a loyal reader.

    Between Gary and Tim Dunn, cant deal with these selfish f—ks.

    EVERYBODY needs to stay home until the all-safe has been sounded.
    juts not that hard.

  19. “all safe” will never be sounded…it will be “just two more months” and “just two more months” ad nauseum….Fauci the Ferret and the rest of the politicians like the position they’re in…being able to dictate…sad that so many people can’t think for themselves and just follow orders.

  20. To tell you the truth, at my age, I feel no one can tell me whether I can or I can’t travel or do whatever. I am respectful of the norms in general, but I do not stay home 24/7. My husband and I have been vaccinated and we have been going to restaurants, to the markets, shopping, and we do socialize to the extent our friends allow.
    We are not going to be dictated by a liberal attitude that we have to be shut in and controlled the rest of our lives and wait for the 4th of July to have a “small family picnic” or such get together. That reeks of too controlling, socialist, and liberal government interference in our lives. De we wear a mask? Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. It depends on the of group people, but we are always mindful of who is around us whether at the movies or a restaurant or anywhere else.
    Live and let live and mind others, is what we say.

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