More countries set expiry dates for ‘fully vaccinated’ status

Suzanne Rowan Kelleher

Planning an international trip for 2022? You may need a Covid-19 booster shot before you go. A growing number of countries now say that being “fully vaccinated” has an expiry date.

This trend began to emerge last summer, when the delta variant of the coronavirus was surging around the world and studies revealed that vaccine protection diminishes over time.

In July, Croatia became the first country to set a maximum validity period for Covid-19 vaccine certificates. Initially the Balkan state set a requirement that travelers be fully vaccinated no more than nine months before arrival. That window has since been extended to one year before arrival.

American travelers and others from outside the European Union are required to show a “certificate that they have received two doses of vaccine used in the EU Member States (Pfizer, Moderna, AstaZeneca, Gamaleya, Sinopharm) not older than 365 days, or a certificate that they have received one dose of the vaccine if the vaccine is administered in a single dose (Janssen/Johnson&Johnson) not older than 365 days,” according to the Croatian government website.

In August, Austria announced that its vaccine certificate is also only good for nine months after full vaccination. Again, this was later extended to about one year. “The vaccine certificate is valid for 360 days after the 2nd dose for 2-dose vaccines,” explains the Austrian Tourism website. “In people with a past infection + one vaccination, it is valid for 360 days after that one dose. If you have had a third/additional/booster vaccination, it is valid for 360 days from the third jab.”

Austrian authorities deem that vaccines that only require one dose are valid from the 22nd day after that dose and for 270 days from the vaccination date. Travelers who have recovered from Covid-19 can enter Austria for up to 180 days since the infection as long as they provide results from a negative antibody test taken for 90 days before arrival.

Last month, Switzerland opened to fully vaccinated American tourists. But Swiss health authorities consider that a person is fully vaccinated only “for a period of 12 months from the date of complete vaccination.”

As Asia begins to crack open for tourism, Vietnam is one of many destinations adopting a slow-and-careful approach. Next month, the country will begin a pilot program that will grant a limited number of fully vaccinated foreign tourists quarantine-free entry to Phu Quoc, an island in the southern province of Kien Giang known for its idyllic white-sand beaches. One stipulation: Travelers must have received their second vaccine shot at least 14 days before and no more than 12 months ahead of arrival.

Earlier this month, Israel tightened restrictions for the country’s Covid Green Pass, which is needed to enter indoor venues. Passes for people who have received two vaccine doses or recovered from Covid-19 are now valid for just six months after the date of their completed vaccination or recovery.

Meanwhile, another trend has emerged in recent months. Since January, all travelers must test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of entering the U.S.. As a result, there have been cases of both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers testing positive within the last three days of their trip. Consequently, even before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved booster shots, many fully vaccinated American travelers were pre-emptively getting a third shot of the vaccine a few weeks before leaving on an international trip to give themselves an extra insurance policy against becoming a breakthrough case.

But health experts warn that there is a potential downside from getting a booster too early. Just as with any other three-shot vaccine series, the intervals between shots are gauged to give people robust immunity for a longer period of time. So instead getting a third shot based around a planned trip, it makes more sense to stick to the optimal timing for a booster shot, then plan future trips accordingly. — Courtesy Forbes

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