US health officials are pushing ahead with a Covid vaccine mandate for travelers entering the country — despite no evidence it reduces infection rates.
There was an expectation the unpopular policy would be ditched when the federal government officially ends the nation’s public health emergency on May 11, when any still-standing pandemic measures are expected to be ended.
But, in an announcement Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated the policy rather than dropping it.
The US will allow travelers that have received at least one vaccine dose on or after August 16 into the country. The CDC says this is because many who have received a one dose since this date may have received the more-protective bivalent shot.
Sticking with the vaccine mandate rule makes the US an international outlier. Few countries still require visitors to have received a Covid vaccine to gain entry, including Angola and Indonesia.
The CDC says it will allow people to enter the country who have received just one Covid vaccine since August 16, 2022. They will be considered fully vaccinated
Recent studies have shown the Covid vaccines, while able to prevent hospitalization and death, are not as effective against transmission of the virus.
A 2022 paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that after 25 weeks, the protection the Pfizer vaccine gave to recipients against Omicron infection fell to just nine percent.
A booster shot raised this protection to 67 percent initially, before dropping to 45 percent after just two weeks.
Experts have previously slammed decisions to keep Covid-era policies in place as ‘out of step’ with the rest of the world.
Dr Doug Badger, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told DailyMail.com: ‘Neither the European Union nor Canada imposes such a requirement.
‘Vaccines reduce the risk that an infected individual will develop severe illness, but they do not prevent transmission.
‘The administration should follow the science and rescind this policy.’
In its update, the CDC said: ‘Because some traveler vaccine records might not specify whether recent Moderna or Pfizer doses were bivalent, CDC will consider anybody with record of a single dose of Moderna or Pfizer vaccine issued on or after August 16, 2022, to meet the requirements of the Amended Order to board a plane to the United States.
‘This date was chosen because it represents the earliest that travelers could have received a bivalent booster.’
Covid vaccination requirements for foreign arrivals to the US by air are currently set to expire on May 11, 2023, says the Transportation Security Administration.
But, authorities have previously chosen to renew these policies just ahead of previous expiration dates.
These rules were previously meant to expire on April 11, but moments before the deadline they were extended another month.
Bivalent boosters specifically target the Omicron variant, unlike the original vaccines which targeted the virus’s initial Wuhan strain.
Scientists argue that this means they provide better protection against severe disease and death from currently circulating strains.
Most countries have already dropped their vaccination requirements for visitors amid mounting evidence that they do not slow the spread of the virus.
The UK dumped its Covid vaccination requirement for visitors in March last year, now more than a year ago.
France followed suit in August, while the European Union lifted all its Covid-related travel requirements for its members in December.
China, in line with most of the rest of the world, also does not require travelers to have a Covid vaccine.
It does, however, say they should have a negative Covid test result at least 48 hours before travel.
There are also far higher levels of immunity in the population now from vaccinations or previous infections than in the early days of the pandemic.
About three in four Americans were estimated to have some level of immunity against Covid in February last year by John Hopkins. It is likely that current levels are now even higher.
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