The U.S. has a ban in place 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. This has been a ludicrous policy.
- Where the U.S. has a higher rate of infection than countries where travelers are banned from
- When the U.S. isn’t following a ‘zero Covid’ policy anyway, travel bans do little to slow the spread of the disease
- To the extent that unvaccinated Indonesians, Russians, and Peruvians are welcomed while vaccinated Europeans who test negative are not
Ultimately it’s safer to spend time with vaccinated Germans who test negative for Covid-19 than with the median Texan or Floridian in a restaurant or bar. Yet the Biden administration has thus far been unwilling to revisit this and other Trump administration policies not grounded in science. This has several reasons,
- A status quo bias in policy, it’s hard to implement changes to policy than to leave them in place.
- Not wanting to be blamed when bad things happen following a change in policy, which also makes it harder to blame a predecessor.
- Some members of the Biden administration still wanting to follow a ‘zero Covid’ strategy even though the virus has in all likelihood become endemic and there’s no possibility that a comprehensive set of policies could be enacted which would follow such a prescription even if it were chosen for the U.S. Some advisors even want the air travel mask mandate to be permanent.
Finally though reports are that the U.S. will re-open to vaccinated travelers from the U.K. and Europe in November, according to sources ahead of an anticipated meeting meeting between President Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday.
With any American 12 years old and above who want a vaccine having been able to get one, with vaccines on the cusp of being available to 5 year olds (and those under 12 at little risk to begin with), the only thing standing in the way of nearly all Americans who wish full protection from having it is the FDA and other parts of the bureaucracy blocking booster shots. There’s certainly no reason to believe banning travel from countries with higher vaccination rates than the U.S. is a worthwhile public health measure.
Some reports suggest that the ‘vaccine passport’ regime for foreign travelers would replace travel bans entirely, including for the rest of the countries on the list. it remains to be seen what the full list of accepted vaccines will be, or when such new rules will be revised to limit length of time since vaccination that entry will be valid (when boosters will be required).
Update: Bizarrely, the U.S. may not recognize the AstraZeneca vaccine which has been widely used in Europe and especially the U.K. Restrictions on other regions of the world are still under assessment. We’re waiting on news regarding how children not yet eligible for vaccination will be treated.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine hasn’t been approved in the U.S., largely as a punishment for messy trials, though data on its enduring effectiveness in the real world is strong. The FDA has never explained why scientists and regulators in the rest of the world are wrong about this vaccine.