Will you need a COVID vaccine booster to travel?

(NerdWallet) – You don’t need a COVID-19 vaccination — better yet a booster shot — to just walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. But tourists and locals alike will soon need full vaccinations, including a booster, in order to take part in some of the city’s most fun activities.

Indeed, since February 1, the San Francisco Department of Public Health requires that all people eligible for a COVID-19 booster must present proof of the shot if attending indoor events with 500 or more people or at outdoor events with 5,000 people. or more people. This means that COVID-19 vaccine boosters are required to attend most concerts, shows, conferences and festivals in the city.

San Francisco has some of the strictest national recall requirements, but they can also come from elsewhere. Hawaii Governor David Ige said in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the state is considering requiring travelers to show proof of a COVID-19 booster to be considered fully vaccinated. Within the state, Maui County already has its own recall warrants to enter certain businesses.

The case to get boosted before the trip

If you’re not boosted yet, first consider that vaccine requirements are continually changing and increasing. Effective Jan. 24, Hawaii’s Maui County updated its definition of “fully vaccinated” to include a booster shot. Currently on Maui, you must be fully vaccinated to enter “high risk” businesses, including gyms, restaurants and bars with indoor dining.

Second, many recall requirements are announced without notice. In the case of San Francisco, the new callback requirements that take effect Feb. 1 were announced Jan. 10. This only gave unboosted travelers about three weeks to schedule and receive their booster shot before the new rules take effect. People who don’t want to be boosted might have to rush to resell non-refundable show tickets or get refunds on airfares or hotel reservations.

Ige said if Hawaii added a statewide callback requirement, there would be at least two weeks notice.

While Maui and San Francisco were the first to adopt strict COVID-19 policies, many other places have followed their lead on things like mask mandates and vaccine requirements. If this trend continues, more cities could embark on their own recall requirements.

Even without government-mandated mandates, individual businesses and entities such as employers, college campuses and restaurants may require up-to-date proof of vaccination.

If you are planning domestic travel, accept that recall requirements may be on the table. Have a plan to handle these demands if they arise; this plan may be to ensure that you have been recently vaccinated or boosted.

Do I need a booster for international travel?

A few countries have already issued recall warrants, at least to some extent – ​​and more are likely to follow. More common than outright recall mandates, requirements that your most recent dose of the COVID-19 vaccine must be taken within a specific time frame, meaning people who were vaccinated earlier in the pandemic would need a reminder to stay up to date.

For example, travelers to Croatia must either be fully immunized with an approved vaccine given within the last 365 days, with the last dose taken more than 14 days before arrival, or meet certain other requirements such as quarantine, COVID testing or provide proof of recovery from COVID. However, if you were vaccinated more than a year ago and do not wish to self-quarantine or take a COVID-19 test, you will need a booster.

Israel’s rules are stricter, requiring not only proof of a negative test taken 72 hours or less before your flight, but also proof of full vaccination or recovery from COVID-19 to enter, unless you have a special permit or an Israeli passport. And for most people to be considered fully immunized, they must have received their last dose within the past six months, with the last dose taken at least 14 days before arrival.

Check with the tourism department of your destination not only when booking your trip, but also just before you leave. Recall requirements can change quickly.

Understand the COVID-related documentation you will need

Just as booster rules are region-specific, so are the exact ways to prove you’re boosted (or vaccinated, for that matter). Although a physical copy of your immunization record is generally accepted, you may not want to take it with you to every activity, as you risk damaging or losing it. Some companies might agree to just see a picture of it on your phone.

Apps such as Clear’s Health Pass, which stores digital versions of your card, may work at some facilities. Apps like this can be appealing because they’re usually able to store both proof of vaccination and test results in one place.

Maui County specifies its vaccination requirements: in addition to your proof of vaccination, you need a piece of identification containing the same information as the vaccination record.

For international travel, many countries require you to upload your proof of vaccine to their own apps and websites, such as Israel’s Green Pass. If you are traveling abroad, check with the tourism department of your destination country for the latest rules. And for all travelers, check the local rules, as well as the rules enforced by any places you plan to visit.

One more thing: in most places, being boosted is still insufficient to enter. Most countries, including the United States, require proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter, even if you are vaccinated. The type of COVID-19 test accepted can vary greatly depending on where you are headed. And beware: COVID-19 testing can be expensive, especially if destinations require tests that have a quick turnaround or come from a specific vendor.

The bottom line

While only a few countries and cities currently require boosters, the list of those that do is growing, with Hawaii likely becoming the first in the United States to issue a statewide requirement. If you are traveling this year, be prepared for the possibility that you will need a booster shot. More than two years into the pandemic, the rules are constantly changing, so check for the latest updates before you leave.

About Shelley Hales

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