Starting November 8, most non-resident travelers to the United States will have to be vaccinated in addition to testing negative for Covid-19 within the prior 3 days.
This replaces the near-blanket ban on travel from China, Iran, India, Brazil, South Africa, the European Schengen area, the U.K. and Ireland.
It was an odd rule since travelers from Bahrain and Peru, which had some of the world’s worst outbreaks, were never excluded. Neither were travelers from Mexico, who couldn’t cross the land border but could enter by air.
The new rule is odd as well,
- The new entry policy recognizes vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, so the Chinese Sinovac vaccine is accepted, even though it was claimed to be just 51% effective against symptomatic disease pre-Delta variant and the WHO says there’s no evidence it reduces infection or transmission.
- Russia’s Sputnik vaccine won’t be accepted. So until November 8th unvaccinated Russians are welcome in the U.S. and after that even vaccinated Russians won’t be. Sputnik has been ordered by 70 countries.
- Prior infection isn’t recognized at all, so people following European guidelines for one vaccine dose along with prior infection – which may provide more robust immunity than so-called full vaccination (and prior infection plus one dose of Pfizer-BioNTech is certainly better than one dose of Johnson & Johnson) – won’t be allowed.
The administration, in issuing its orders, has now clarified who is exempt from the vaccine requirement entirely.
- Children under 18. Many vaccines aren’t approved yet for use in children.
- Those with medical reasons not to get one. There will be a procedure, just as employer requirements generally allow medical exemption.
- Business visitors from countries where vaccines aren’t prevalent. There are about 50 countries where vaccination rates are below 10%, and non-tourist visitors from those countries will not have to be vaccinated.
Exempt visitors staying in the country longer than 60 days will generally need to become vaccinated, which doesn’t require citizenship or residence or even an I.D. It’s odd to require vaccination only at the end of two months rather than, say, for those whose exemption isn’t due to age or health being required to get a shot within their first few days in the country.
Airlines will have to confirm that non-U.S. residents flying to the U.S. have proof of vaccination from an “official source” and that the last dose “was at least two weeks earlier than the travel date.”