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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Comments

  1. The Biden Administration purports to “follow the science” but that really just means empty sloganeering. Absurd, but people seem to be buying it without asking too many questions.

  2. I strongly agree with you Gary. I think the worry/fear is that with all travel events (major holidays, especially Thanksgiving/Christmas) we saw a huge spike. And there’s really no way to police who is and isn’t vaccinated. SO, they’re MO is to just hold off for a few (2?) more months when many more people are vaccinated before allowing vaccinated travel.

    Not ideal, but I understand the hesitation.

  3. Fauci said vaccinated groups can be together indoors without masks, but they have to still wear masks in public, which makes sense. As long as those vaccinated travelers are wearing masks in public, it seems pretty obvious that those who are vaccinated are allowed to travel.

  4. @Daniel: Exactly. It’s a temporary, “on the safe side” overreach by the government. It’s similar to what I see here in Philadelphia: almost everyone who is walking outdoors is still wearing masks — even though virology (science) shows that transmission while casually walking past people outdoors is extraordinarily improbable. But the local government urges people to wear masks outdoors anyway.

  5. I think the main thing is the administration is trying to prevent too big of a have-have not gap with vaccines until anyone can get it. There are enough people ‘cutting the line’ and regardless of how okay society as a whole is with it, there are still seniors and other high risk groups in many areas struggling to get vaccinated.

    Once May 1 comes around or all states have the vaccine open to all, then you will see the admin much more willing to recommend more things vaccinated people can do. (or potentially even things you can’t do unless you are vaccinated, depending how close to herd immunity we get before demand for vaccines falls off).

  6. What a joke all this is. I’ve already used my forged Vaccination Card twice and no one has even questioned it!

  7. “if they do (spread covid) someone who gets it is likely to have a less severe case.”

    Is this actually based on anything? You had me up to this last sentence,
    where it seems you’re talking out of your A…Asymptomatic people are the main spreaders, as they do so silently, and plenty of people are dying as a result. I know asymptomatic kids who picked it up at school and gave it to their grandmother.

    Nothing wrong with arguing it’s ok to travel, but at least link your covid claims to evidence.

  8. Clearly you don’t understand how your decision to travel impacts people of color and marginalized communities who do not have equal access to these dangerous vaccines.

    This post is racist.

  9. @Ben – Exactly. Gary tries to play gotcha when anyone who works in a service industry knows that people will interpret seemingly clear guidance in any way they want to get to the outcome they want. Saying those who are vaccinated can travel and those who aren’t can’t could lead to the following: I had one dose, I’m vaccinated. I got the virus before, I’m vaccinated. I was sick at some point last year, I’m vaccinated. I was exposed to the virus before, I’m vaccinated.

    What is it with people in this country playing gotcha all the time with the government? Get over it. It’s two more months.

  10. I had COVID in Dec 2020, then multiple negative PCR tests. Then I got Pfizer vax, with second dose over two weeks ago. Yesterday I got a new COVID PCR test prior to international travel and it was positive. To be clear, no symptoms of any kind, I just got tested as part of a travel requirement. Maybe I’m in the 6%, but it is still possible to be vaccinated and still catch/spread COVID.

    But I agree with you, if the data shows it drastically reduces asymptomatic infections and infectiousness then, in general, regulators should still be promoting resumption of normal travel habits. Perhaps also with continued testing requirements until x% of vulnerable people at those destinations have been vaccinated.

  11. @ Andre, @ShameOnHypocrites : answer us this, if you can : how many people have died from poverty in this last year? how many children are going hungry because parents are out of work? what will the long-term effects of limited learning for so many children be? but oh no, let’s rag on gary, let’s piss on people who actually have been fully vaccinated and can/will travel and start spending money, let’s shutter the economy totally and have mainly the service-industry workers suffer to the point of hellish inferno all so that some internet-posturing twats can sermonize. besides, can you legitimately say that it is ok to leave the house to go out onto the streets, but not ok to travel? of course not, because there is no fucking difference.

  12. It’s better to wait until the pandemic subsides. Another few months isn’t going to be too troublesome, but it will give virtually everyone protection via vaccination ( …other than the anti-vaxx wackos and some people unable to have it for medical reasons…)

  13. @Mak – I think there’s room for debate over the administration’s handling of this, but let’s not forget the previous President’s approach – standing at the podium saying people should inject bleach to disinfect themselves!

  14. @Ben, if that’s true, then say so. Don’t pretend that it’s “dangerous” for the vaccinated to travel. It causes anxiety and unwillingness for the vaccinated to do other things at home.

  15. While I expect relatively unfettered travel is but far away, the evidence in the article use that you don’t actually believe your own headline.

    And vaccines are being shown . . . is not the same as “vaccines have been shown. . “. Nor is a statement by the CEO of a vaccine manufacturer (no matter how noble and remarkable the company’s work has been) any kind of actionable evidence.

    In the final paragraph you talked that belts-and-suspenders approach of the self-unsure suggesting that even if you’re wrong any infection would be sufficiently less severe do at not to be dangerous.

    Personally, I’m very hopeful that the argument you’ve laid out in this post will, in fact, be borne out, at least assuming that the “spread faster” crowd hasn’t managed to breed a vaccine resistant strain in the last year. But right now we’re in the uncertainty zone. That’s frustrating for homo internetus who believe everything can be expressed in 280 characters but in the real world some weeks or months of caution while things shake out are not inappropriate.

  16. @Andre – at least in the near-term one does of Moderna/Pfizer seems to provide similar protection to J&J. By the way the *unvaccinated* have been traveling, the guidance isn’t what is driving that behavior..

  17. @aviators99: The administration is likely erring on the side of having people do less at the moment to prevent the unvaccinated either getting FOMO and cutting the line or just joining the vaccinated and doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing.

    Give it 6-8 weeks and once the May 1st date Biden put in (barring a new variant that can spread easily among the vaccinated), you will see a lot more things that people who are vaccinated will be encouraged to do, especially once vaccine supply and demand are more at an equilibrium.

    My guess is the admin is trying to thread a needle along the middle ground of “don’t give the anti-vaxxers any more influence” and “don’t cause any more of a run on vaccines until there is the supply to match”

  18. based on the studies and information available, the old bizarre line of “your vaccination protects me” is not a thing with the covid vaccine. Therefore, the only people spreading the illness will be unvaccinated to unvaccinated. The chances of getting it otherwise are (according to research) extremely unlikely. basically, we should be opening up TODAY and going back to normal life. Those that dont want to get the vaccine have made and informed choice and those that HAVE been vaccinated need to respect that and stop the fear mongering.

  19. @Ben – it’s telling people less than the full truth and being less than transparent that has damaged the credibility of public health experts from the start of the pandemic, and led to backlash against their advice (Cf. Masks). If this is what’s happening it is a very bad strategy and shows little learning.

  20. FrackTheCovidordoxothy: could not have said it better…have tested positive for antibodies & have been vaccinated…fully intend to start traveling ASAP…as a matter of fact, went to Mexico in January and will be going back in April.
    Is any one else suffering from Fauci the Ferret fatigue? has he actually ever practiced medicine?

  21. Here we go:

    – mixturing vaccinated people with people who may have the COVID or being in a place with a high prevalence of the virus may lead the virus to learn how to bypass the vaccine protection. It is like the flu shot that you have to take once a year because it suffers mutations. This virus has proven to be really smart and all these months it has managed to “upgrade” itself in order to become more transmissible and dangerous.

    Imagine that the virus lives to infect more people and will do anything to do it. It is its only purpose in life. Am I saying that this will prevent further virus mutations? Hell no, but vaccinated people living their lives like it is all back to normal may increase likelihood that further virus mutations will occur in places where people might not have been completely vaccinated.

    Dear Gary, stick to miles and hotels and travel and everything in between. But do yourself a favor and leave the health guidelines to the people who knows about it, will you?

  22. Le Blanc and Live Aqua Cancun have been offering some great deals the past year.
    Sun and Fun!
    I was given the J&J vaccine yesterday.

  23. I will not book an expensive trip to Hawaii until and only when they completely drop the 72 hr covid test that has been required up to this point. I’ve had my two 2 shots and that should be enough. But the power and authority that has been relinquished to the government is hard to let go of. Hawaii just doesn’t seem to know what to do about mainland travelers. If I tested positive for covid and was asymptomatic and had proof of my vaccinations would I need to quarantine upon arrival – I am not that hard up to get to Hawaii.

    I just don’t want to lose my wallet funds on Alaska Airlines which expire 12/31/2021. Patience.

  24. Concerned teacher,
    With all due respect, I need to ask you to justify your post with actual facts in your community – which means you need to tell us where you live.
    I don’t know of a single state that is showing preference by race for giving the vaccine – in fact, many are increasing clinics in poor and marginalized areas.
    Many areas are offering free transportation to vaccination clinics.
    Many states have added teachers to the vaccination priority list when they weren’t in the original priority lists for most states and the CDC, even under Biden, has said that vaccinating teachers and students is not necessary to safely reopen states.

    Multiple surveys show that people of color are more resistant to take the vaccine even though it is being offered.

    Help us understand the facts regarding vaccine inequality and why it is racist to promote a return to normal travel based on proven science which has indeed included research and tests with people of all races.

    It is time for the freedom to travel to return.

    and many people are booking travel with the greatest increases among vaccinated people. The government might be stopping some people from moving ahead but it has been legal to travel throughout the pandemic, multiple states are dropping their previous restrictions, and the people that are moving now are getting some of the best bargains as early returners to travel.

    I wish you well and trust that you and your communities come out stronger because of this and other crises that none of us wanted.

  25. Yes, the guidelines not to travel look to be more political than science based at this point if a person is vaccinated. I grant that it is hard for anyone to know that a person has been vaccinated (our noses don’t light up green or anything), so I am assuming it is fear that people will fake vaccination (as we’ve seen in the comments).

    Underselling the vaccines and under-rewarding people who get them is becoming a serious problem.. If people get vaccinated and they still aren’t supposed to do anything, there will be a certain segment of the unvaccinated that says, ‘”What’s the point?” That outlook snowballs into people not bothering or caring about getting vaccinated, which, compounded by deliberate misinformation and crackpot theories, will leave us short of the numbers we need. Saying that if everybody cooperates we can have a small outdoor barbecue with friends on the 4th of July isn’t good enough.

  26. I have received both shots of Moderna now and am ramping up travel exponentially. However, am I doing anything differently when I travel now? No. Just more of it. I am still distancing at meetings, wearing masks, not lingering in public areas, and not eating indoors at restaurants. When we have reached herd immunity this summer I will relax these personal measures. So, yes, of course if you had your jabs you should travel, especially if like me you are doing it for your business and work and keeping the wheels of commerce turning. But that doesn’t mean you fling away your built in protocols for now. That will come in maybe this summer.

  27. People, vaccinated or not, shouldn’t travel right now unless they have to because currently air travel sucks. It is not the enjoyable experience it was. The money and miles you shell out don’t buy the same level of service they used to or will in the future when herd immunity is reached. But those who are unable to delay their travel fix for a few months are welcome to spend their dough on an inferior product now.

    Tell me people, vaccinated or not, are getting good value out of getting on an airplane now. It’s not about can. It’s about what makes sense.

  28. As others have noted lately, you’ve become more and more erratic in your posts – focusing on clickbait and comment-bait, above actual travel information. You’re more than smart enough to understand the implications of both the science of no-travel recommendations, and the benefit to your clickbait. You’re more than smart enough to know that the point of all this is to reduce variant spread, which some of the vaccines aren’t actually very effective against certain strains.

    Ultimately, as a long-time reader of the site (many, many years), this post was the final straw.

    The only thing this post serves is comment bait, and frankly, has little to do with travel – and more to do with pitting readers against each other in a discussion about vaccines and politics. As much as you’ll attempt to say otherwise, again, you’re smart enough to know that’s not true.

    No doubt, you won’t miss a single reader going away. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that. But over time, you’ll notice you’ll lose more and more of us – the people who followed you from years ago for trip reports and frequent flyer information, but all we get now is clickbait, stories of people fighting in TSA lines, and random rants…with a credit card affiliate link tossed in.

    Yes, you’ll gain more pageviews (via clickbait), but pv’s are cheap. Your real money is affiliate links, and a single lost credit card referral payout wipes out tens of thousands of page views.

    Ultimately though, the site isn’t really about travel info anymore. Thus…good luck!

  29. So as someone who works in a large academic medical center, an avid traveler, and also is asked to run our asymptomatic testing site, I am really mixed on how you wrote this article.

    While ultimately the onus to travel (and yes I have traveled domestically after vaccinating) and many people are willing to take on the perceived risk (or not), the article addresses nothing in regards to real life events that are actually happening

    We have had 2 instances whereby individuals post 2-3 weeks out of their second vaccination came to our asymptomatic testing site and tested positive. Days later, they were showing symptoms and subsequently quarantined.

    As a healthcare worker that has seen first hand how difficult herd immunity is, I can appreciate why the gov’t is taking a cautious approach as people feel more emboldened to be less risk adverse.

    Again, it’s to each their own. I just could not personally live with myself knowing that I could been a carrier even after vaccinated and even if its a low viral load to someone who is not and someone i care about.

    My post here is not intended to judge those who want to travel. All I ask is to actually hear from people who actually work in healthcare and on the front lines and know the facts.

    Continue to be smart. Look out for each other and let’s get this behind us.

  30. I traveled a lot before I got vaccinated, going to keep doing it now that I am. No basement dwelling fraudulent “president” is going to tell me what to do.

  31. Like your style…agree with you 110%…traveled before the shots & will continue to do so now that I am “anointed”.

  32. I don’t have an opinion on whether vaccinated travel is safe or not. Part of the reason I don’t have an opinion is because we’re still learning about what it really means to have been vaccinated in a world of mutating COVID strains.

    Do I think vaccinated travel is LESS RISKY than un-vaccinated travel? Yes. That seems obvious.

    How much less risky? We don’t know because there hasn’t been time to compile enough evidence with a large enough sample size to make it stick.

    Do I think a major uptick in vaccinated travel means we won’t have COVID infection spikes? There’s no clear evidence to either support nor disprove that so it remains a viable possibility.

    The Trump administration wanted to err on the side of the economy (and the 2020 election) and if the virus spread more and hurt more people, that was the trade off they were willing to take.

    The Biden administration’s approach seems to be to err on the side of health and safety and if that means the economy is slower to recover, that is the trade off they are willing to take (for the moment given that 2024 is four years away).

    Which position one ascribes to depends greatly on what is more important: the economy or ones health? That sounds glib when it’s written like that but that is essentially the choice. We can’t have both. I myself have vacillated between those two positions several times in the past year so it’s not as cut and dried black and white as extremists on both sides of this question have made it out to be.

    But as far as travel goes, for me the situation is unchanged. Travel will be dictated by need only and not be desire. I can afford to wait half a year to a year longer to get back in the air for “elective travel”…

  33. As long as the US government is refusing to allow any vaccines to be exported, I think foreign governments should bar Americans from visiting their countries regardless of vaccination status. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  34. I am a medical doctor. I agree with Gary’s points above. Traveling for fully vaccinated people should be low risk. The caveat is there may be some risk of acquiring a new Covid strain in another part of the world that the vaccines may not protect as well against. This may be part of the reason for the current CDC recommendations to avoid travel. Regardless the overall risk is low. Personally, I would not hesitate to travel, at least not domestically, as I have been fully vaccinated and pose a low risk to myself or others. As the NY State quarantine rules will be changing April 1 allowing for domestic travel without quarantine or testing, my health system’s employee travel guidance will likely change to reflect the new NY State guidance.

  35. Face it. Some people will insist on wearing piece of cloth in front of their face for the next 100 years. Because there will ALWAYS be a “chance”, however infinitesimal, that something could be passed on to another. Never mind that we’ve always lived with that “chance” before covid without a second thought, but now that Fauci and Biden have announced that EVERYTHING is different now… (So embarrassing how so many people are so easily manipulated by politicians and the media.)

  36. Once again….whom are we to believe? Scientists and MDs or a writer with a vested interest in travel?

    Hmmmm….

  37. @ConcernedTeacher
    Reagan needs to come back from the dead and pull a PATCO on you guys. Looks like all those donations to smoothbrain’s campaign are paying off. Thanks for using are children as human shields in your next round of “bargaining”.

  38. I much appreciate the thoughtful comments of @Doug Swalen and the others with well-reasoned opinions. But, sadly, you also get the whack-jobs like @Joe who just want to vomit up hate and ignorance.

  39. Can we keep politics out of this? Let’s follow science!

    President Biden and Dr Fauci are here to protect us. If we have to wait til
    2022 to take a trip, is that asking too much? Dr Fauci is a real docter who cured
    AIDS. I think I will listen too him and not some random strangers on the
    interweb who can barly spell.

  40. It’s two more months, then it’s two more months…..now the variants. Fauci needs to keep his mask where his mouth is.

  41. @Mark Crosby

    We are issuing a subpoena to Mr Leff for your information.

    It would be best for all concerned if you would go to your local FBI office and turn yourself in.

  42. For everyone saying “it’s only a few more months” – you’ve been feeding us that crap for a year.

  43. @Ray – Not sure if this is serious or very good sarcasm. If serious, you’re sad. If sarcastic, you’re brilliant.

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