New U.S. travel rules go into effect November 8th, and if the President of France were bound by them he’d be ineligible to enter the country – even though he’s fully vaccinated following European guidelines. That’s because U.S. pandemic policy is – still – not guided by science.
Throughout the pandemic the U.S. has allowed unvaccinated Peruvians and Russians to enter the U.S. despite some of the most crushing effects of Covid in those places. And for much of this year vaccinated Europeans who tested negative for the virus were kept out.
With new travel rules requiring all non-residents to be vaccinated, vaccinated Russians won’t be welcomed because the Sputnik vaccine isn’t acceptable while Sinovac and Sinopharm count. Chinese vaccines that are underperforming are alright, without boosters – though the World Health Organization actually says there’s no evidence that the Sinovac vaccine reduces infection or transmission.
Vaccination requirements for entry go into effect November 8, and this replaces outright bans on visitors who have been to a handful of countries in the past 14 days (a list which doesn’t tier to places with the greatest risk of Covid or new variants).
The U.S. is accepting World Health Organization-accepted vaccines, but isn’t following what’s considered ‘full vaccination’ in Europe.
- One Johnson & Johnson shot is ‘full vaccination’ even though Anthony Fauci concedes that vaccine should have been a two dose regimen from the start
- Two and only two doses of other vaccines including Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca are accepted – even though a single dose of Moderna appears to have greater efficacy than a single dose of J&J – and indeed greater than two doses of Sinovac
- And prior infection isn’t considered, even though evidence of recent recovery from prior infection exempts a traveler from the Covid-19 testing requirement to enter the U.S.
While there’s some disagreement over how protection from prior infection compares to protection from vaccination it is not at all controversial that prior infection plus one dose of an mRNA vaccine represents the gold standard of protection, better than for instance two doses of Pfizer.
- The U.S. will accept someone with prior infection and one dose of J&J (because one dose of J&J is accepted)
- The U.S. will not accept someone with prior infection and one dose of Moderna.
Someone with prior infection and an mRNA vaccine dose is not considered ‘fully vaccinated’ for entry into the U.S. because it was not the originally approved dosing regimen. And this is a problem because it’s considered fully vaccinated in Europe.
That distinction could hobble travel plans across Europe, where people who’ve recovered and gotten one shot are considered fully vaccinated by some countries, at least for now. That standard is also one of the eligible scenarios for the EU digital Covid certificate, the bloc’s widely accepted vaccine passport.
Recovering and a single shot of a two dose vaccine is full vaccination in France and Norway (indeed, it’s the status of French President Emmanuel Macron). There’s similar recognition in Greece, Austria, and Italy. But citizens who have followed government guidance in those countries will not be able to travel to the U.S. even though they have greater protection than most who can enter the country and even though they’ll also have to present a negative Covid-19 test.
The vaccination requirement doesn’t protect the U.S. from variants, the virus mutates in similar ways and high prevalence here means we get mutations. Closed borders haven’t stopped the spread of variants. But these requirements show that policymakers are ‘doing something’ and ‘tough on the virus’ even if they don’t change the course of the pandemic.
Yet the rules in place do little to ‘follow the science’ – even government-recognized science – and no one has bothered to offer an explanation for why they’re following World Health Organization bureaucrats, and not European science.