Why the U.S. Quietly Extended Travelers’ Vaccine Requirements

by SharonKurheg

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, nearly every country closed its doors to visitors. Most countries have since reopened on their own respective schedules. However, to date, there are a handful of countries that still aren’t open, at least to tourism, due to the virus.

In advance of the U.S. reopening its doors to visitors in November 2021, President Biden issued a Proclamation in October 2021 to “suspend and limit entry into the United States for non-U.S. citizens who are nonimmigrants, referred to as ‘Covered individuals,’ seeking to enter the United States by air travel and are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • If you are a non-U.S. citizen who is a nonimmigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa), you will need to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before you travel by air to the United States from a foreign country.
  • Some categories of noncitizen, nonimmigrants are excepted from this requirement. If you meet the criteria for one of these categories, you will need to fulfill additional requirements to travel by air to the United States.

The vaccination rules did not apply to certain small groups of people. However, if you were trying to enter the U.S. for tourism, business, visiting family, etc., you were required to show proof of having received a full series of covid vaccination(s).

Of course, covid has changed a lot since late 2021. The virus has evolved from one that can kill virtually anyone, regardless of age or health level, to one that’s currently much more contagious but generally makes people less sick. As of early 2023, only a few hundred people per day were dying of covid in the U.S. (as a comparison, roughly 350,000 people in the U.S. died of the virus in 2020, 415,000 in 2021, and 2022’s final tally, once fully counted, will be less than 300,000), and those who are unvaccinated have a higher rate of hospitalization and death from covid.

The vaccination rules for foreign visitors have been extended time after time, even as the various forms of omicron variants have shown they’re generally less deadly than the early forms of the virus.

Most recently, the rule was extended from January 9th through April 10th, 2023.

Many people were disappointed with this decision, especially those involved in the tourism industry, or those who put more faith in conspiracy theories than science. After all, covid isn’t the killer it once was, right?

Unfortunately, of the online entities that reported on the update, few explained why the  U.S. government was extending the ruling – just that they were extending it.

Here’s the emergency amendment from the TSA, that went into effect on January 9th. (bold face is mine, for emphasis):

Together with the Presidential Proclamation and the CDC Order, these policies are intended to limit the risk that COVID-19, including variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, is introduced, transmitted, and spread into and throughout the United States, potentially overwhelming United States healthcare and public health resources, endangering the health and safety of the American people, and threatening the security of our civil aviation system.

BTW, it’s very similar to the original ruling, back in the fall of 2021.

Of course, omicron is not as deadly as the original strains of covid. However also remember that the unvaccinated are still at a higher risk of hospitalization and death from omicron. And thanks to the “tripledemic” of covid, flu and RSV, our nation’s hospitals have been busting at the seams, on and off, since the fall. Allowing visitors who are automatically at higher risk for illness severe enough to land them in the hospital, simply because they’re not vaccinated against covid, is not a risk the U.S. government is willing to take right now.

Save for masking and isolating, nothing can help prevent a visitor from catching covid while they’re here; omicron has evolved, LOL! But only allowing vaccinated people to enter the country decreases the chances of their becoming “very” sick and having to be hospitalized, should they catch covid while in the U.S. That helps keeps however many ICUs and other hospital beds a city has, open. That, in turn, helps to not overload (or further overload, depending on the week) the county’s health care systems. And that’s always a good thing.

The other reasons – keeping the American public healthy and aviation security, are important too. But I think right now, when hospitals can and do become full in the blink of an eye, not allowing an entire group of people who could add to that overcrowding is an excellent idea.

Feature photo: Pexels

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


derek January 16, 2023 - 1:10 pm

The pandemic is not over. Keep the vaccination requirement. The mask mandate should have been kept. Biden is a Trumper for ending that.

Billy Bob January 16, 2023 - 4:52 pm

Ho hum. Things look and feel normal back in my part of the world.


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