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CDC Says People Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Can Travel

Health officials say it's OK to hit the road but still recommend staying home

couple waiting for a flight

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En español | People who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can resume travel “at low risk to themselves,” health officials announced during a White House press briefing on Friday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had previously warned against all travel, “even if you are vaccinated.”

But the agency is still not recommending travel even for those who are fully vaccinated (you're considered fully vaccinated two weeks after having received the second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine, or the one dose of Johnson & Johnson's). CDC officials pointed out that the number of people infected in the U.S. is on the rise, with 62,000 new cases a day, and that many Americans remain unvaccinated.

The new travel recommendations are:

  • Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to get a COVID-19 test or quarantine before or after domestic travel.
  • Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to be tested for COVID-19 before taking an international trip, though they need to be tested before returning to the U.S.
  • After returning from another country, fully vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine, but they should get tested for the coronavirus three to five days after arriving in the U.S.
  • Those who are not fully vaccinated should still avoid nonessential travel.
  • Everyone should continue to wear masks in public and partake in other infection prevention measures, such as frequent handwashing and social distancing.

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The guidance for unvaccinated travelers remains unchanged: They should get tested one to three days before domestic travel and three to five days after returning. They should self-quarantine at home for seven days after travel or 10 days if they don't get tested at the conclusion of their trip.

The eased restrictions for vaccinated people are based on recent studies showing that the three vaccines currently in use in the U.S. are extremely effective at preventing both COVID-19 and its transmission, said Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He added that scientists now know that these vaccines are effective for at least six months.

Officials also noted that the pace of vaccinations has sped up considerably, with 2.9 million Americans receiving a shot every day and close to 56 million having been fully vaccinated. About 52 percent of adults 65 and up are fully vaccinated, and 74 percent have received at least one dose.

Even so, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., stressed that millions of Americans are still unvaccinated and that cases are still rising, so the usual precautions remain extremely important. “We are in a life-and-death race against the virus, and the war against the virus is far from over,” she said. “Wear a mask, socially distance, and get vaccinated when it's your turn.”

Christina Ianzito is the travel and books editor for aarp.org and AARP The Magazine, and also edits and writes health, entertainment and other stories for aarp.org. She received a 2020 Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing. 

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