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Travel is Not One of the CDC’s New “Freedoms” for Those Vaccinated

The agency faces pushback for the delay in giving those who have received the vaccine the greenlight to travel

The CDC has updated its lists of new “freedoms” that those who have been fully vaccinated can enjoy. People who have been fully vaccinated can now meet without masks with those who have also been fully vaccinated and are not at high risk. They can also go to restaurants, gyms and socialize in other outdoor and indoor venues.

What they can’t do right now is travel.

The Center for Disease Control says that right now, they are not changing their current recommendation for people to avoid non-essential travel for either vaccinated or unvaccinated people.

At a White House briefing Monday, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC said, “Every time that there’s a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country. We are really trying to restrain travel at this current period of time and we’re hopeful that our next set of guidance will have more science around what vaccinated people can do, perhaps travel being among them.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical correspondent commented that the advice did not make sense given the fact that spikes in COVID-19 rates due to socializing were not statistically driven by air travel. He also said that he felt that the recommendations against travel would most likely be amended by the CDC soon.

Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner, said in a CNN interview that the advice “defied common sense” because it was inconsistent with other recommendations on who vaccinated Americans could interact with.

“I actually would go further and say that people who are fully vaccinated should be able to travel – should be encouraged to travel,” Wen told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin. “That’s one of those incentives that we can give as a way for restoring freedoms, that you are now able to travel and go visit your loved ones and go to museums and cultural institutions once you’re fully vaccinated.”

In the US, vaccinations have been ramped up all over the country with over 27 million doses administered so far. However, many adults under 65 with no pre-existing conditions or special exemptions are still on long wait lists. As of yesterday, 18.1 percent of Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the New York Times. 

Meanwhile, leaders of 27 travel industry groups have sent a letter to the White House urging the administration to develop standards for credentials that would let travelers show they have been tested and vaccinated for COVID-19, according to The Associated Press.

The groups said the goal would be to “establish uniform guidance” for health credentials to assure wide acceptance for travelers. However, the letter emphasized that vaccination should not be a requirement for domestic or international travel.

Globally several initiatives are underway to develop vaccine passports to streamline and standardize protocols to determine if travelers have been tested for COVID-19 or have received one of the approved vaccines. The European Commission is set to propose a “digital green pass” for EU residents with the aim of opening up travel by the end of June.

And at last week’s ASEAN Economic Ministers meeting,  leaders of the ten member states discussed the idea of creating a common vaccine certificate to facilitate travel and economic recovery in the region.