To learn more about safe post-vaccination travel, we spoke with Dr. Daniel Caplivski, a professor of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Travel Medicine program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Though over half of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of June 2021, lingering questions remain as to what activities are once again on the table.
Good news for the vaxxed: travel is on the horizon! While you should still practice healthy behaviors like frequent hand-washing, Dr. Daniel Caplivski, a professor of Infectious Diseases and the Director of the Travel Medicine program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, has faith in the efficacy of the vaccine, and you should too. Even so, vaccinated travelers may still need to get tested before and after air travel (or as mandated by local governments).
Still have cold feet or unsure where to go first? If the travel itch is nagging but you’re feeling indecisive, check out the CDC’s map of safe-to-travel destinations, organized by risk assessment. Then, read on for more advice from Dr. Caplivski.
How long should you wait to travel once you are vaccinated?
Two weeks after your final dose of vaccine, you are considered immune. If that’s Pzifer or Moderna, that’s two weeks after the second dose. If it’s Johnson & Johnson, you would be immune two weeks after the first dose.
What precautions should you still take?
It’s still advisable to still be wearing masks throughout the airport and while you travel—in many situations, that’s still a requirement. As for other requirements that you will need to travel, at this point, it varies. From one country to the next, there are different requirements for testing before you travel and after you arrive. Some countries still have quarantines in effect, but for the most part you can find this information on the State Department’s website and the CDC’s website.
Will vaccinated travelers need to quarantine after travel?
That’s going to vary by country. The vast majority of countries are now going with a testing option, in which you are testing yourself before you get on the plane and then after arrival in many cases, including the United States. In the United States, you will be tested before you travel back home and then after you return home. That includes vaccinated travelers as well. Unfortunately, even with the vaccine, we are still bound by those testing requirements.
How do I know if a country is safe to travel to?
The best resource remains in the CDC in terms of the most recent updates. There is a lot of other important information to think about when you travel abroad, so consider consulting with your primary care physician or a travel medicine specialist to think about additional precautions you can take to prevent traveler’s diarrhea, malaria, and other insect borne illnesses—in addition to the precautions you are taking regarding COVID.
What is your dream destination that you can’t wait to go to?
My wife and I have two children—four and two. We’re waiting for them to get a little bit older, but we would love to go on a dream safari in Africa because I’ve helped so many people prepare for that trip and haven’t been myself. So one day we are hoping to make it there.
Window or aisle seat?
If you are vaccinated, it doesn’t matter too much. The preventative efficacy of these vaccines is very good. You’ll still be wearing a mask and trying to socially distance and practice good hand hygiene as much as possible in the airport and on the plane. As we see the travel numbers increase, I think we are going to see pretty crowded airlines and airplanes, so just be ready for that. You can have confidence in your vaccination and use the mask as mandated by the requirements of the airline. I would say it’s also probably important to try to time your meals—as much as possible—staggered away from the passengers around you. [It’s normal to] still have some concerns, especially if you are immunocompromised and you’re not sure if your vaccine is as efficacious as those who have an immune system that is not affected by other medications, for example. But I would say the vaccines are very good and I wish everyone safe travels and to enjoy their vacations!