US vaccination requirement for air passengers worries Canadians with mixed vaccines
Canadian travelers have been able to fly freely to the United States since the start of the pandemic, but new US travel rules announced on Monday have raised concerns among some Canadians with two different doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that they will soon be barred from entry. .
Starting in early November, the United States will require that foreign air passengers entering the country be fully immunized. The problem is, the United States has yet to approve the COVID-19 vaccine mix.
“I’m really worried about this US policy,” said Cathy Hiuser of Ancaster, Ont., Who has one dose of COVIDSHIELD (a brand of AstraZeneca) and one dose of Pfizer. She booked a trip to Maui, departing Nov. 7.
“I don’t even know if I will be able to cross the border,” she said. “It is a problem.”
At the same time as the United States introduces its vaccine requirement, the country will lift its travel ban on incoming air passengers from a list of dozens of countries marked with a red flag.
“We will put in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by passengers traveling overseas to the United States,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.
CBC News asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) if the millions of canadians with mixed vaccines will still be allowed to enter the country when the vaccine requirement goes into effect. The CDC said it was in the “regulatory process” phase to determine which vaccines will be accepted.
The agency also outlined its current policy: it considers people fully vaccinated when they have all of the recommended doses of the same COVID-19 vaccine, such as Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca.
“At this time, the CDC does not recognize mixed vaccines,” spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said.
But there are exceptions to the rule. The CDC says on its website that mixed doses of the two mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are acceptable in “exceptional situations,” such as when the vaccine used for the first dose is no longer available.
However, a combination of AstraZeneca and an mRNA vaccine will fail to meet the bar, a position adopted by cruise ships departing from US ports.
“Customers whose two-injection regimen consists of 1 dose of mRNA (Pfizer or Moderna) with 1 dose of AstraZeneca will not be considered vaccinated”, States Royal Caribbean cruise line on its website. “We continue to encourage the CDC and other US government officials to reassess this policy.”
‘I started to cry’
Canada is one of many countries – including Germany, Italy, France and Thailand – which distributed mixed vaccines to a number of its citizens. But there is no international consensus on this practice.
The CDC said the United States is conducting trials on the safety and effectiveness of combination vaccines and the agency may update its vaccine recommendations once new data becomes available.
But that’s of little comfort to Canadians with mixed doses who have already made plans to travel to the United States, like snowbirds and those who have booked winter vacations.
In May, Norma Chrobak of Orillia, Ont., Booked a special family trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands to celebrate her partner’s 75th birthday. The trip consists of a week-long charter boat cruise in February – costing $ 26,000.
The problem is that five of the 10 family members who have to go on a trip – including Chrobak and his partner – have a mix of AstraZeneca and Moderna.
“My heart almost exploded in my chest,” Chrobak said when she learned of the upcoming US vaccine requirement for travelers. “I started to cry.”
She has already made a deposit of $ 12,500 for the trip and is not sure at this point if she can get a refund if it needs to be canceled.
The trip was meant to be a surprise birthday present for Chrobak’s partner. But she is talking about it publicly in the hope that the Canadian government will pressure the United States to accept mixed vaccines.
“Someone’s got to take this bull by the horns,” she said. “There must be something that can be done.”
Canada has updated its vaccination guidelines in June Recommend mixing doses of COVID-19 vaccine based on emerging research that has found it to be both safe and effective.
On Thursday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr Theresa Tam said Canada was in talks with the United States about its upcoming vaccine requirements for foreign air passengers.
“We have had a whole series of discussions with our American counterparts,” she said at a press conference. “We basically provided technical support to help them make a decision on the mixed dose, in particular AstraZeneca followed by an mRNA vaccine.”
The waiting game
Attorney Henry Chang, who specializes in immigration laws in Canada and the United States, said he was optimistic the United States will soon change its stance on mixed vaccines.
“My hunch is that they’re going to have to figure it out. If it’s not right when the vaccine needs come soon after, because there will be too many people complaining about it,” said Chang, who is with the Dentons law firm in Toronto.
If the United States does not move on mixed vaccines in November, some Canadians will still have options. Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta each provide a third dose of vaccine to people in their province who need it for travel.
But that doesn’t help potential travelers like Chrobak in Ontario, who has to wait to find out the fate of his trip.
“I feel pretty much devastated, like I have no control,” she said.