Do You Need A Vaccine To Travel?
Almost two years after our world changed due to the pandemic, most of us are yearning to get things back to normal and slowly resume the activities that we always enjoyed. As travel restrictions are carefully lifted, however, you may be wondering if a vaccination card for travel is required.
What Is a COVID-19 Vaccination Card?
After receiving your COVID-19 shot, you will be issued a vaccine record card that should state the brand of vaccine that was given to you, the date it was given, and the site where you received your vaccine.
The government provides vaccines free of charge to everyone living in the United States, including immigrants. It should be easy to find a COVID-19 vaccination site near your home since 90 percent of people live within five miles of a vaccination site.
Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine
Here is what you can do to have a seamless vaccination process before you travel.
Find Out Where To Get a Vaccine
Go to the website vaccines.gov for information on where you can get a covid vaccine near you. If you are unable to access the site, you can instead text your zip code to 438829 or call 1800-232-0233 to find a vaccination site. Some local pharmacies also offer vaccination appointments through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. Further information about the vaccination policies and sites in your area are available from your State and Territorial Health Department.
Book an Appointment
Get in touch with your selected vaccine provider to schedule an appointment. In general, appointments can be made and rescheduled online through the provider’s website. Take note that the CDC does not provide your schedule; you will have to contact the pharmacy or your local health service provider to book an appointment.
Confirm and Print Your Appointment Form
Prior to your set appointment date, confirm your appointment by blocking out the date on your calendar. Print the appointment confirmation from your email since it may be required at the vaccination site.
Follow the Basic Health Protocols at the Vaccination Site
Ensure that you and your health care provider are both wearing your masks. As much as possible, stay at least six feet away from another person to reduce infection risk.
Side Effect Monitoring
Expect to be asked to remain at the vaccination site for at least 15 minutes to monitor immediate side effects. Aside from taking your temperature and blood pressure, your health care service provider will also check for other adverse reactions. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or dizziness, inform a health professional immediately.
Your vaccine provider may also assist you with enrolling in v-safe, a free smartphone tool for health monitoring after getting your COVID-19 vaccine. Regular health check-ins concerning your vaccination will be done through text or website forms.
Check Your Vaccine Report Card
To avoid issues in the future, double-check your vaccination card for correct and complete information. It should include your complete name and legal data, vaccination date, brand name, the batch number of the vaccine that was administered to you, and the vaccination site. Other security features, such as the signature of authorized personnel or a QR code, may also be present.
Return for Your Next Dose
The mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, comprise most of the vaccines available in the United States. They require two doses to give you full protection from the virus. On the other hand, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, which is based on the viral vector platform, is available as a single dose.
Your healthcare provider will inform you of your second dose appointment since the dosage schedule may vary depending on the vaccine brand. Bring your vaccine record card during your second dose administration so that you can get the details filled in.
Immunocompromised people may require a third shot to boost their immunity. Similarly, people with greater risks, including health care workers and older adults, such as the residents of special care facilities, will be prioritized for their third dose when the health department starts giving booster doses in early fall.
When You Are Considered Fully Vaccinated
Your COVID-19 vaccines do not immediately mean that you are considered fully vaccinated. It is two weeks after your second dose of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s mRNA vaccines that you will be officially fully vaccinated.
Take note that your first and second doses should be from the same manufacturers and you should have followed your vaccination dosage schedule.
Continue Following the Minimum Health Guidelines
No vaccine is 100 percent effective against COVID-19 and there is always the possibility of breakthrough infection. Getting vaccinated boosts your protection against severe symptoms. Continue taking precautions when going out by wearing your face mask properly and keeping a safe distance of at least one meter from another person.
Do I Need a Vaccination Card for Travel?
With travel guidelines that vary from state to state, a vaccination card may not be enough when traveling to another state that requires a vaccination passport.
A majority of US respondents agree to a required vaccination certification for airplane travel and attendance to crowded events. Interestingly, a majority also disagrees with requiring vaccination status for dine-in restaurants, hotel stays, and the workplace.
While there are no plans yet for a federal vaccine passport system, several states have instituted their own vaccine verification systems, especially for travelers.
New York is the first state to launch its own digital vaccine certificate through its Excelsior Pass. This free and voluntary initiative shares not only a resident’s vaccination status but also their negative covid testing results. Interested New Yorkers can download an iOS or Android app to use the pass.
California’s Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record was created by public and private entities while in coordination with the Smart Health Card QR platform. Residents will have to enter the required information at the California Department of Public Health’s form on their website to pull up their vaccination records. They will also be given a QR code that can be used to verify their vaccination information.
As one of the states with strict travel restrictions, Hawaii has created its Safe Travels program, which requires travelers to Hawaii to upload their vaccination information on their website. The state also accepts vaccination certificates obtained through Common Pass and Clear.
Other States That Offer Vaccine Passports
Here are the other states that have their own digital vaccination record cards:
- New Jersey
Activities That Require a Vaccine Record Card
Certain establishments require the presence of a vaccination card, not to restrict unvaccinated individuals but to reduce transmission by adding special protocols.
A person who asks “do I need a vaccine to fly?” should know that as of August 2021, airlines do not require a passenger to present their vaccination card for travel. However, international travel has special restrictions being implemented by the country of destination.
Entering Indoor Establishments
In San Francisco, residents are required to present proof of vaccination to be allowed to go inside bars, restaurants, clubs, and gyms, and to attend large indoor events.
The Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Holland America, as well as other major cruise lines, ask for proof of vaccination before allowing a passenger to board. Aside from the digital vaccination card, some even require the presence of the physical card or a negative swab test result.
Attending Events With Segregated Seats
Some events have segregated seating for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, with unvaccinated persons being restricted to certain areas and required to wear masks at all times. Coming with proof of vaccination will give you more seating options.
As of August 2021, the UC Davis Medical Center in California asks visitors to the in-patient area to present a COVID-19 vaccination card or a negative result to a COVID-19 test that was taken within 72 hours.
Reminders for Your Travel
Even if you are considered fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control have other recommendations to ensure everyone’s safety.
Wear a Mask Indoors
If you are taking a bus, train, or plane, you are required to wear a mask when inside the public transport and indoor transportation hubs, such as airports and stations.
In crowded areas, wear a mask and keep a distance from other individuals. Refrain from having close contact with unvaccinated persons.
Self-Monitor and Isolate After Travel
After travel, check yourself for COVID-19 symptoms, and if necessary, get yourself tested within three to five days of arrival. Isolate yourself from your family for seven days to prevent viral transmission.
A Not-So-New Normal
For many years now, an updated vaccination status has been required for international travel whenever you’re coming from or going to countries with endemic diseases.
Something similar is now in place when traveling or entering indoor areas in the US to curb the transmission of COVID-19 and its newer variants. Although vaccinations are not mandatory, getting vaccinated ensures better protection against the virus and access to areas exclusive for vaccinated individuals.