- The CDC still says “do not travel.”
- But President Biden, who has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, is darting around the country.
- Leading independent health experts say he should be allowed to do so, as should others who’ve completed vaccination.
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President Biden is taking a victory lap around the US, even as COVID-19 continues to spread.
On Wednesday, he toured parts of Pennsylvania, and on Friday he’ll be in Georgia, as part of the White House’s “Help is Here” tour touting the new COVID-19 relief money — which includes a fresh round of $1,400 payments to qualifying Americans.
“CDC recommends that you do not travel at this time,” the agency‘s website has read for months now. “Travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19.”
The CDC maintains that not enough people have been vaccinated yet to make nationwide travel safe again.
But many independent leading public health experts have said what Biden is doing is perfectly OK, and that the CDC is being too harsh and cautious with its guidance for vaccinated people, even if it’s still quite risky for unvaccinated individuals to move around.
Health experts agree: domestic travel should be a perk for the vaccinated
Dr. Carlos del Rio, a distinguished professor of medicine at Emory University, is just one of the latest to join other health professionals in recommending behaviors that the CDC does not yet.
“Yes, you can travel if you’ve been fully vaccinated,” del Rio said Monday on a JAMA livestream. “You know, wear a mask et cetera, but it’s going to be safe.”
Other big public health names arguing it’s alright for vaccinated people to travel, as long as they’ve given their shots several weeks to take effect include: Dr. Leana Wen (former Baltimore health commissioner), Dr. Preeti Malani (chief health officer, University of Michigan), Dr. Ashish Jha (dean, Brown University School of Public Health), and many, many more.
“To continue telling people not to travel is not going to help us,” del Rio added. “People are just not listening.”
Vaccinated people still need to wait several weeks after their shots, and continue wearing a mask in public
President Biden was vaccinated with his first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on December 21, and completed his two dose course on January 11. Health experts recommend waiting at least two weeks after that before traveling, to make sure the shots have had enough time to take effect.
There are still some minor concerns that vaccinated people may be able to catch, and then spread COVID-19 to others, even if they show no symptoms themselves after that, which is why it’s important for vaccinated people to continue wearing masks. But more and more research is suggesting that is highly unlikely, especially with the vaccines which have been authorized for emergency use in the US, from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
Early studies are suggesting, instead, that these three COVID-19 vaccines are anywhere from 74 to 94% effective at preventing asymptomatic infections, even when the more transmissible and slightly more deadly B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in the UK, is in the mix.
“Bottom line: the vaccines work in the real world,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said, during a White House COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.
Jet-setting around the globe may not be practical just yet, but short flights to visit extended family members and domestic vacations should be a vaccination perk, according to Wen.
“We can’t have an abstinence-only view on this,” Dr Preeti Malani, the University of Michigan’s chief health officer said on JAMA, stressing the importance of in-person gatherings to our emotional well-being. “We also need to remember that COVID is not the only risk in our life, and that all the other risks need to be balanced with this.”
Biden seems to have already accepted this. It would be nice if his public health agency did too.
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