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En español | The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's current guidance says that people who are fully vaccinated can resume travel “at low risk to themselves,” although the agency still recommends staying home as the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. It continues to ask non-vaccinated Americans to avoid nonessential travel.
Now that they've received their COVID-19 vaccinations, Joel Ettinger, 75, and his wife, Gail, 73, are set for their first big trip since the coronavirus pandemic began last March: They’re headed from their home in New York City for a two-week visit with their two sons and their families — including a new baby granddaughter — in Seattle. “We are off-the-charts excited to meet her,” says Ettinger, who adds that they also can’t wait to spend time with their two grandsons, whom they haven’t seen in more than a year because of COVID-19.
As an increasing number of older Americans receive COVID-19 vaccinations — about 75 percent of people 65 and up had received at least one dose by April 4, according to the CDC — they are eager to visit dearly missed family members or take dreamed-about vacations (some are calling them “vaxications”) knowing that they’re protected from the worst effects of the virus.
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A survey of 1,200 clients by Virtuoso, a network of travel advisers, this year found that among those older than age 56, about 90 percent said they’re more ready to travel in 2021. Eighty-two percent said they'd wait for the vaccine before they depart.
“There’s definitely a big bump in interest,” says Dana Storr, owner of Luxami Travel, based in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. “Starting at the end of January, I started hearing from my older clientele, saying, ‘We’re getting the vaccine next week,’ and then, ‘We’ve now gotten our second shot.’ There’s this appetite to just go.”
A surge in bookings
But is it safe?
The CDC says yes (it’s “low-risk”), and other health experts also express confidence that the vaccines will keep travelers safe from contracting a serious case of COVID-19. “If someone’s vaccinated, their risk during travel is negligible,” says Aaron Richterman, M.D., a fellow in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia. You have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 if you’re out and about than if you stay home, he adds, but as long as you’ve been vaccinated, it would most likely manifest as no more than a mild, coldlike illness.
Air travel is on a steady upswing. On Monday, April 5, the Transportation Security Administration processed more than 1.56 million travelers at U.S. airports, compared to about 108,000 on the same day last year, when the pandemic was in its early stages (though down from 2.38 million on the same day in 2019).