It is that time of year when many people are looking forward to their summer vacation plans. However, people may be wondering if this is finally a time when they can travel with minimal health risks, or if they may have to postpone adventures once again, just as they did last summer, when the global pandemic was still raging?
Though social distancing, sanitation and crowd limits press on this year, a few things have changed since last summer. After a year of living in a pandemic, doctors and the public in general have learned what is working and what is not in regard to managing surges and avoiding a rush on hospitals and health centers. In addition, at press time, various effective COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to millions of people, and another is potentially on the horizon. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these vaccines are effective at protecting people from getting seriously sick. People who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things they ceased doing because of the pandemic. Many may wonder if that means traveling.
Experts say that those who have been fully vaccinated (receiving both shots for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or one for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine) it is likely safe to travel again. But caution is still needed. The vaccines do not immediately provide full protection. The Pfizer or Moderna vaccines provide full vaccination two weeks after the second dose, while the J&J vaccine provides protection two weeks after the single dose is administered.
The CDC offers that those who have been fully vaccinated can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing masks, and gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
However, some things have not changed even for people who have been vaccinated. Gathering with unvaccinated people (or if you cannot confirm they’ve been vaccinated, such as on an airplane or in other public settings) still requires wearing a mask, staying at least six feet apart from others, avoiding crowds, and avoiding poorly ventilated spaces.
“Getting vaccinated does not say you have a free pass to travel, nor does it say you have a free pass to put aside all the public health measures,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Experts, like Dr. Chris Beyrer, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health notes, “We also do not know the answer to the question, ‘Are people who have been immunized still infectious to others?’”
There also is concern about how well vaccines will protect against all the COVID variants.
Until more is known about long-term vaccine efficacy and until more people receive their full doses, it may be wise to avoid normal travel patterns this summer, and standard precautions should still be implemented for those who choose to get away.