NOTE: This article was updated on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, with additional information provided by the CDC regarding people who have already received all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As efforts continue to vaccinate the population against COVID-19, some questions have arisen regarding how this affects protocols for people who plan to travel.
Should you get tested or quarantined before and after traveling even after receiving the vaccine? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently revised their recommendations in this regard.
First of all, it is important to remember that you are only considered a fully vaccinated person, “two weeks after your second dose of a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after receiving a single dose vaccine, like the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine,” according to the CDC.
The agency adds that “we are still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions – like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces – in public places until we know more”.
Protocols for people traveling to US jurisdictions regardless of being vaccinated
According to the CDC, people who have already received full doses of the vaccine, “do not need to be screened before or after traveling nor do they need to self-quarantine after traveling.” However, in the particular case of Puerto Rico, the Department of Health (DS) and the local government have made no changes to the current Executive Order which requires that anyone traveling to the country must present a negative molecular COVID-19 test result conducted no more than 72 hours before traveling. If the traveler does not do so, they must undergo a quarantine period of no less than 14 days. In addition, individuals must complete the DH Traveler's Declaration Form, available at: travelsafe.pr.gov/index.html.
The CDC added that “people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States.” They suggest delaying travel until you are fully vaccinated, because travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, follow the CDC’s recommendations for unvaccinated people.
The CDC will update these recommendations as more people become vaccinated, as rates of COVID-19 change, and as additional scientific evidence becomes available.
What to do during your travel
In order to continue efforts to decrease virus infections, everyone should follow the following recommendations during their trip:
Wear a mask over your nose and mouth. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet apart (about 2 arms lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
After the trip, the CDC suggests that you self-monitor your health “for the appearance of symptoms of COVID-19; isolate yourself and get screened for symptoms.” In addition, you must comply with all applicable state and local recommendations and requirements.