Can I travel after being vaccinated?

Finally getting the COVID vaccine (dose one and two) is definitely cause for celebration —Especially because after more than a year you might finally get to see your bestie from afar. Traveling anywhere but your bedroom/office/gym is a priority right now, so you may be wondering whether vaccinated people can travel. The answer, like everything else in the past decade, is complicated.

When should I not travel after being vaccinated?

“Because many people are still unvaccinated at this time, caution should still be used when traveling,” said Dr. Sanjeev Jain, a board-certified physician in immunology and internal medicine at the Columbia Asthma and Allergy Clinic.

Just because you've had both shots doesn't mean you should book a flight for the next day. Dr. Jain says you should wait at least a few weeks after receiving the vaccine before considering traveling, otherwise your body won't have time to develop immunity.

Once immunity develops, the vaccine can protect you from getting sick, but that doesn't mean you still can't spread the virus. “It’s important to continue social distancing, wearing a mask and practicing good hand hygiene because you could theoretically become a vector and still spread the virus to those around you, similar to how asymptomatic carriers infect others They had interactions,” Dr. Jain said.

What does this mean for your travel plans? If infection rates are high in your community or in a community you travel to or through, please postpone your next trip. "It's best to avoid places with low ICU bed capacity and high rates of new COVID-19 cases," Dr. Jain said. Even if you've been vaccinated, if the positivity percentage is close to or above 5% anywhere you travel to or from, Please continue to Zoom until further notice.

When can I travel after being vaccinated?

Once you've waited a few weeks after your second shot to ensure your immunity, you might start thinking about packing up your car. When you're planning a trip, make sure you check in with the people you're going to meet first. "Consider whether they've also been vaccinated," Dr. Jain said. This is to ensure they don’t get sick or spread COVID-19 to you.

While traveling, please wear a mask and keep your distance as much as possible. "If you do choose to travel by air or public transportation, it is still recommended that you wear a mask and cover your mouth and nose appropriately; avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose; and wash your hands after touching anything, especially before eating or drinking," Dr. Jain suggested.

If you wish to travel further than a few states, you may be able to travel outside the United States once you are fully vaccinated. For example, Hungary and Iceland allow entry to travelers who have proven immunity (either through vaccination or antibody testing), but U.S. residents are barred from entry. If you can prove immunity, you are exempt from quarantine in Iceland. Just because you can, though, doesn't mean you should buy a plane ticket right away—even after you're vaccinated, you could still spread it to people wherever you travel if your destination isn't vaccinated. That's even more problematic. Robust vaccination has not yet been implemented.

What are the best practices for traveling after vaccination?

Before you pack your bags, remember that just because you're vaccinated doesn't mean those around you won't get sick. “Consider the impact your travel may have on the communities you plan to visit,” Dr. Jain says, including but not limited to the person or people you plan to meet. That means basing your plan on the current COVID-19 rates in your county and the counties you’re traveling to, regardless of your and your friends’ vaccination status.

If you and your vaccinated friends decide that the price is low enough and the risks of travel are acceptable, you're better off taking a road trip instead of taking public transportation or flying. "Currently the safest way to travel remains by car with only members of the same household in the car," Dr Jain said. If anyone on your visit list has not yet been vaccinated, the safest thing to do is to save it for your next trip. Not planning on meeting anyone except your travel companions and the inside of your hotel or Airbnb? You can book a vacation spot after you're vaccinated as long as you verify your hotel's COVID-safety measures and wear a mask when not in your hotel room.

Dr. Jain suggests that when you're on the road, stick with what you've been doing for the past year or so. "Remember that you can still spread the virus to others, so please behave in a respectful manner and continue to practice appropriate precautions such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and good hand hygiene." In other words , keep doing everything you’ve been doing—but you might consider dusting off your wheelie suitcase.


Dr. Sanjeev Jain, MD, is double board certified in immunology and internal medicine at Columbia Asthma and Allergy Clinic