Canadian travellers have been able to fly freely to the United States since the start of the pandemic, but new U.S. travel rules announce Monday have some Canadians with two different COVID-19 vaccine doses worried they may soon be barred from entry.
Starting in early November, the U.S. will require foreign air passengers entering the country to be fully vaccinated. The problem is, the U.S. has yet to approve mixing COVID-19 vaccines.
“I’m really worried about this U.S. policy,” said Cathy Hiuser of Ancaster, Ont., who has one dose of COVISHIELD (a brand of AstraZeneca) and one dose of Pfizer. She has booked a trip to Maui, departing Nov. 7.
“I don’t even know if I’ll be able to go across the border,” she said. “It’s a problem.”
At the same time as the U.S. introduces its vaccine requirement, the country will lift its travel ban on air passengers entering from a list of dozens of red-flagged countries.
“We’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki 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 fly to the country when the vaccine requirement kicks in. The CDC said it’s in the “regulatory process” phase in determining which vaccines will be accepted.
The agency also laid out its current policy: it considers people fully vaccinated when they have all recommended doses of the same COVID-19 vaccine, such as Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca.
“At present CDC does not recognize mixed vaccines,” said spokesperson Kristen Nordlund.
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 was no longer available.
However, a combination of AstraZeneca and an mRNA vaccine won’t meet the bar, a position adopted by cruise ships departing from U.S. ports.
“Guests whose two-shot regimen consists of 1 mRNA dose (Pfizer or Moderna) with 1 AstraZeneca dose will not be considered vaccinated,” states Royal Caribbean cruise line on its website. “We continue to encourage the CDC and other U.S. government officials to re-evaluate this policy.”