Could Proof of Vaccination Become
the New Travel Normal?
With summer 2021 quickly approaching, many are ready to resume their pre-Corona virus routines. According to the AAA, almost 100 million Americans had family trips planned for spring or summer 2019. This number declined in 2020, along with the air travel industry revenue. With the airline industry and its consumers itching to get back in the sky, some are still wondering will the travel requirements change soon now that the vaccine is available? Will you need proof of vaccination to travel?
How Has Covid-19 Affected Travel So Far?
An article by the Bureau of Transportation breaking down travel statistics from 2019 and 2020 showed a 70% decrease in total passengers from August 2019 to August 2020. In the same time frame, domestic travel was down 67%, and international travel was down 87%. It is no wonder international travel suffered the most when you account for travel bans, mandatory lockdowns across the globe, and border closures.
According to a survey done by Harvest Hosts consisting of 10,000 Americans: 76% said that they plan to travel more in 2021 than they did in 2020. However, just 21% of participants said they would be traveling by plane, and 69% of participants stated that they did not feel safe getting on a plane. These statistics make you wonder what the next steps will be for the industry to make people feel safe during air travel, especially when the CDC website still states that flying on an airplane does increase the risk of contracting Covid-19.
So far, masks are a TSA requirement for commercial and public transportation and will continue through May 2021. Many airlines are on the same page and require you to wear a mask for the entire duration of your flight unless you are eating or drinking. Some airlines, such as Spirit Airlines, have even taken it a step further by adding their new sanitation routines to their website to ease traveler concerns.
For example, Spirit now has an entire page dedicated to explaining their mask policy, HEPA filters, disinfecting fogging treatments, and the thorough cleaning of high-touch areas. These new precautions may be why a negative Covid-19 test is not a requirement for domestic travel, only international flights. But how effective is this when incoming visitors will then enter an airport with domestic travelers who did not require a test?
Cruising Through Corona
The cruise industry is another one of many that took a big hit due to corona. Statistics show that the number of North American passengers carried dropped from 12,929,200 in 2019 to 3,225,500 in 2020. 2020 could be referred to as a catastrophic year for cruise revenue, as they reportedly lost billions.
2021, however, seems to be a year for optimism as cruise lines prepare for their comeback with new vessels and plans for luxury trips. For instance, Regent Seven Seas Cruises opened reservations for a 143-day, six continent 2023 cruise, and the luxury suites were all sold out within hours, even with prices starting at $107,499 per person.
As far as safety measures go, under new CDC guidelines, cruise ships are to become certified to sail by carrying out simulated voyages with unpaid volunteers and crew members posing as passengers to prove that the cruise ship can control the spread of the virus. Under the new guidelines, ships will also have to have the space for routine coronavirus testing and mandatory mask-wearing in all public areas. Some American cruise lines return to sail dates as far back as May 2021 (Holland America) and as early as April 2021 (Carnival).
How Far Away is Herd Immunity?
At this point, everyone has been wondering when The United States will reach herd immunity. Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of an infectious disease within a population-based on pre-existing immunity of a high proportion of individuals due to previous infection or vaccination. The number of immune individuals necessary to declare herd immunity varies between diseases and is determined through contagiousness.
Experts estimate that herd immunity for the coronavirus would require 80-90% of the population to be immune. The first vaccination in the United States was to Sandra Lindsey, an ICU Nurse, and director of patient services at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, on December 14th, 2020. Since then, we have administered more than 61 million doses have across the country. However, this is still only 12.9% of the total US population.
Some are still a bit wary about the full effectiveness and safety of the new vaccine. Others are ready for their opportunity to get the vaccine to get back to a sense of normalcy. As of now, the vaccine will be available in phases due to the limited supply. If you were interested in availability near you, the CDC says you should contact your local health department as each state currently has its plan for who is eligible to receive the vaccine.
Even though vaccine availability is still scarce, with an average of 1.8 million shots administered a day, experts say herd immunity for the United States could be as little as a year away. Global herd immunity may be an additional six years away. With some countries already requiring or strongly recommending vaccines like Yellow Fever or Malaria upon entry, it’s no wonder people want to know how long it will take for the Corona vaccine to become either a recommendation or requirement.
Vaccine Required for Future Travel?
It may come as a shock, considering the fact that the vaccine is still in the early stages, but it is already a requirement for some upcoming cruises. Some of the cruise lines that will require proof of vaccination from the crew and guests include Saga Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and more.
Whether or not airlines will follow in their footsteps is still up in the air. Talks of “Immunity Passports” have already started with WHO. The intent is to one-day issue passports that will grant travelers the ability to move more freely and have access globally to things like indoor dining, movie theaters, and traveling internationally.
While nothing is confirmed, The International Air Travel Association, or the IATA, which represents over 290 airlines, reported being in the final stages of developing a digital vaccine passport that will grant travelers access to travel information such as testing and vaccine requirements for their journey. The app will reportedly have a space to upload previous vaccine certificates and testing results in a private setting.
All in all, nothing seems to be set in stone as of now. But it is apparent that things will not be returning to normal in the near future. And this does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. While masks and vaccines may have sparked some debates, safety precautions such as extra sanitation in public spaces or plexiglass in airports are not the worst outcomes.
Since herd immunity is about a year away for the united states, vaccination probably will not become a domestic travel requirement. It is highly likely to become an international requirement. It is most likely to start with countries with low infection rates, therefore low immunity levels, such as Cambodia and Greenland, requiring a negative test or vaccination upon entry to keep it that way.
Will You Need Proof Of Vaccination To Travel? Let us know below in the comments if you think this will become a requirement to travel.