Sep 20, 2021 - Health

Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers

Picture of President Biden

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday that the Biden administration will allow fully vaccinated travelers from around the world to enter the U.S. beginning in November.

Why it matters: The announcement comes as President Biden seeks commitments from countries to donate vaccines to the global COVAX initiative. He is expected to host a COVID summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week, and many of the countries attending have expressed frustration with the travel ban.

Details: Fully vaccinated travelers will need to complete pre-departure testing within three days prior to their departure to the U.S. They will not be required to quarantine upon their arrival.

  • Zients said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will determine the definition of "fully vaccinated" and what vaccines qualify for this policy.
  • The CDC will issue a contact tracing order requiring airlines to collect current information from each U.S.-bound traveler, including a phone number and email address.
  • "This will enable the CDC and state and local public health officials to follow up with inbound travelers and those around them if someone has potentially been exposed to COVID-19," Zients said.

What they're saying: "This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans and international air travel safe," Zients said.

  • "By requiring foreign nationals to be fully vaccinated in order to fly into the United States, and implementing additional strict safety protocols, we will protect Americans here at home and enhance the safety of international travel," he added.

The big picture: European officials had expressed serious frustrations at the Biden administration’s refusal to lift the EU travel ban, which was put in place under former President Trump in March 2020.

  • Those frustrations intensified after the EU surpassed the U.S. in vaccinations.
  • EU Home Commissioner Ylva Johansson told Axios earlier this month that she had received no explanation on why the ban remained from U.S. officials, and that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas simply told her it was “very complicated.”
  • The breakthrough comes just days after France recalled its ambassador to the U.S. over separate tensions regarding the U.S.-U.K.-Australia security partnership.
    • When asked if the decision was politically motivated due to the current tensions with France, Zients said the decision was "based on public health." He added it was also based on "individuals rather than on a country-based approach."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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