Global Affairs

Travel Is Safe-ish for Vaccinated People, CDC Says

traveler in an airport, wearing a mask, looking at arrival/departure screens

Photo: People Image Studio (Shutterstock)

The CDC issued new guidance today for traveling after you’re vaccinated, noting that “fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19.” But director Rochelle Walensky also noted that just because you can travel doesn’t mean you should.

“I would advocate against general travel overall,” she said in a White House briefing. “Our guidance is silent on recommending or not recommending fully vaccinated people travel. Our guidance speaks to the safety of doing so.”

As with the advice for visiting friends, the guidelines for traveling are based on the idea that travel is low risk to you if you are vaccinated. You have a very small risk of getting infected yourself, and a very small risk of transmitting the coronavirus to others. Neither risk is zero, and you still need to be mindful of the risks faced by unvaccinated people you meet along your way.

If you are traveling within the U.S.

According to the CDC, people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized COVID shot (so, two weeks past their last dose of the two-dose Pfizer, two-dose Moderna, or one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine) can travel “safely.”

“You do not need to get tested or self-quarantine if you are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months,” the CDC guidance says. You still must follow other recommendations, like wearing a mask on public transit, and you should still avoid crowds and wash your hands often.

Unvaccinated travelers should get a viral COVID test one to three days before departure, and should self-quarantine afterwards for 10 days, or for seven days if you got a negative test.

Everyone should monitor themselves for symptoms after traveling; if you get symptoms of COVID, whether you are vaccinated or not, seek testing and appropriate medical care. Stay home so you don’t potentially spread the virus to others.

If you are traveling to another country

The CDC has a page with specific travel recommendations for each country, so make sure to check that out if you are planning international travel. They recommend not traveling internationally at all unless you are fully vaccinated.

You do not need to get a COVID test before you travel, unless your destination requires it. You should still get a COVID test within three to five days after traveling, though. You do not need to quarantine.

If you are traveling from another country to the U.S.

For the return trip home, the U.S. requires everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, to have a negative COVID test within three days before departure. The only exception is if you have recovered from COVID within the past three months and have documentation (like medical records) to prove it. After returning, the U.S. does not require vaccinated travelers to self-quarantine, but you should still get a viral test within three to five days.

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