CDC OKs travel for 'fully vaccinated' Americans

The recent updates for fully vaccinated travelers do not change the guidelines for those who remain unvaccinated or have not hit the two-week mark after their final dose. Photo credit: alvarez/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images (man after getting vaccine shot)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans who are fully vaccinated can travel “at low risk to themselves,” both domestically and internationally. According to the new CDC Domestic Travel During COVID-19 guidance, fully vaccinated travelers must continue to take precautions, such as wearing a face mask in public, maintaining social distancing and washing hands frequently.

This news follows the CDC’s report on March 29 that said “Messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be effective in preventing symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.” In other words, “authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are effective for preventing SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infection in real-world conditions.”

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In addition to the OK to travel, according to the guidance, fully vaccinated Americans do not have to quarantine upon arrival back in the U.S.—unless required to by local jurisdictions. The CDC adds that fully vaccinated travelers do not need to get tested before or after travel, either, unless their destination requires it. Whether they must quarantine upon arrival in their international destination still relies on the regulations of the other country.

A person is only fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their final vaccine dose (the first and only for Johnson & Johnson or the second for Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna).

The recent updates for fully vaccinated travelers do not change the guidelines for those who remain unvaccinated or have not hit the two-week mark after their final dose. These Americans are still discouraged from non-essential domestic travel; if they must, a test before the trip and after, along with a self-quarantine of seven to 10 days upon returning home are still recommended.

It’s also important to note that these new guidelines do not alter any foreign regulations regarding letting Americans visit their country; in many cases, such as across Europe, Americans remain banned from entry.  

The Industry Responds

“The CDC’s new travel guidance is a major step in the right direction that is supported by the science and will take the brakes off the industry that has been hardest hit by the fallout of COVID by far. As travel comes back, U.S. jobs come back," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow is a statement. “The CDC’s data suggests that vaccinated individuals don’t transmit the coronavirus, which opens the door much wider for resuming travel, albeit while continuing to carefully follow other health best practices. Acknowledging that vaccinations eliminate the need for testing and quarantines removes a key barrier to domestic travel. Rescinding the recommendation that international visitors must quarantine also is an important incremental step."

The American Hotel and Lodging Association similarly applauded the decision. “As we move forward into the spring and summer travel season, please join us in amplifying our Safe Stay initiative efforts to welcome back travelers and work to resume our business operations as safely as possible,” said President and CEO Chip Rogers. “We will continue to leverage the expanding support for our Safe Stay initiative from the public health community, frequent travelers and the general public to highlight the strength of our ongoing industry efforts during this recovery and reopening process.” 

“The new CDC travel guidelines are welcome news for America’s hoteliers and the millions of Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” said AAHOA President & CEO Cecil P. Staton. “For more than a year, lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines in response to the pandemic decimated the travel and tourism industry as people simply stopped traveling. The Biden administration’s aggressive vaccination goals and recent studies on the different vaccines’ real-world effectiveness are giving people the confidence they need to safely resume pre-pandemic activities like travel. It could not have come at a better time for hoteliers, for the gradual reopening of America now could lead to significant increases in occupancy and revenue during the summer season. The hotel industry’s road to economic recovery is long. A full recovery remains unlikely until at least 2023, but this news is a shot in the arm to the hotel owners and hospitality professionals who are eager to welcome guests back into their hotels and communities.”

A version of this story appeared on Hotel Management's sister site Travel Agent Central