It looks like the United States may soon replace its current travel bans with a different kind of requirement for entry.
US could end travel bans, add vaccination requirement
While no official announcement has been made, Reuters quotes a White House official as stating that the Biden administration is developing a plan to require nearly all foreign visitors to the United States to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This wouldn’t apply to United States residents and citizens, but rather only visitors.
As it’s stated, the White House is ready to reopen travel, but is not ready to immediately lift restrictions because of rising case numbers and the delta variant.
Agencies are working “to have a new system ready for when we can reopen travel,” which includes “a phased approach that over time will mean, with limited exceptions, that foreign nationals traveling to the United States (from all countries) need to be fully vaccinated.”
This would be part of a plan of eventually lifting the travel restrictions that are currently in place against much of the world, including Brazil, China, India, the Schengen Zone, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, among other countries.
Obviously there are more questions than answers as of now:
- Which vaccines would be eligible for entry into the United States?
- Would pre-travel testing still be required when returning to the United States?
- Would unvaccinated children traveling with vaccinated adults be allowed to enter the United States, and if so, would they need to be tested?
- It’s stated that “over time” we could see vaccination required, so could we first see borders open on a more widespread basis, and then see this requirement later?
My take on this potential vaccination requirement
The United States’ current entry restrictions make no sense, and most definitely don’t “follow the science.” They don’t restrict entry based on the actual epidemiological situation in a country, but rather are based on identifying places that had a bad outbreak at one point, but then the bans are never revisited.
In that sense, this new policy would be a considerable improvement, as it’s based on science. Being vaccinated significantly reduces your risk of hospitalization and death, and it’s also believed to reduce your risk of getting coronavirus. Wanting people to be vaccinated makes a lot more sense than a blanket ban based on where someone is coming from.
What I find interesting is that this seems to be the first indication of the Biden administration making concrete policies based on vaccination status. New York announced it will require people to be vaccinated to dine indoors, go to gyms, etc., but on a federal level up until now we haven’t even seen the suggestion that we could see restrictions based on vaccination status (obviously there are potentially some legal challenges there). It seems that the first area where we may see vaccination become a requirement on a federal level is with entry into the country.
My primary concern with this potential new system is how long it will take to implement. Nothing happens quickly, and this seems like it would be no exception. My one hope is that it’s stated that requiring visitors to be vaccinated is a long-term goal, so perhaps we could see some restrictions lifted in the interim.
The Biden administration is allegedly considering replacing the current travel bans with the requirement for foreign visitors to be vaccinated, at least in the long-run. This seems to me like an improvement, in terms of minimizing the risk associated with travel.
What do you make of the United States potentially requiring visitors to be vaccinated?