British Columbians looking to travel to the United States later this fall and into the winter may be able to access an additional COVID-19 dose if required by U.S. regulations.
B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she is still optimistic the Americans will allow travelers into the country with mixed vaccine doses and AstraZeneca. But the province is preparing for the possibility they are not allowed.
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“If it still looks to be a problem, we will provide people with what they need,” Henry said.
“Right now, we don’t want people to get an extra dose they don’t need when it may interfere with a new booster or new strain (of COVID-19). We will make sure people with essential travel get the doses they need.”
Currently there is no requirement to be vaccinated to enter the United States. The government is moving to require vaccination for travel starting in November.
The Biden administration has not determined yet what vaccine or combinations of vaccines will be allowed.
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Right now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has only approved for use Pfizer’s Comirnaty, Moderna’s Spikevax and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccines. An approval for use does not necessarily mean it will be limited for travel.
The CDC has not approved AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria, nor has it approved mixing and matching vaccines.
“We know things are changing very, very quickly. The irony is the AstraZeneca vaccine that we received was manufactured in the U.S.,” Henry said.
“I am fully expecting them as the data becomes more available that countries will be modifying their acceptance of other vaccine programs. If you plan on travelling next year, this will be sorted out.”
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Data presented by the B.C. government shows 93 per cent of people who received Vaxzevria and a dose of a mRna vaccine avoided getting the Delta variant.
There are also financial consequences the United States would be looking at if it barred entry for fully vaccinated Canadians.
The United States welcomes more visitors from Canada than any other country. Restricting access to mixed vaccines would also keep visitors out from France and Germany.
“In the weeks and months ahead we should expect more pragmatism to reign,” director for Competition Policy at the R Street Institute Ashley Nunes said.
“Cash is king. Even during a pandemic. There is considerable pressure on the administration, especially from border states, to let people in. We are not just talking about millions of dollars, we are talking about billions and billions of dollars.”
B.C. residents who received mixed COVID-19 doses won’t be offered third shot for travel
One of the reasons British Columbia is not immediately providing additional doses for those worried about travel restrictions is because the vaccine is going elsewhere.
The province is preparing to vaccinate children, potentially as early as the end of October. Health officials are also considering a third dose for those in the homeless population where breakthrough cases are taking place.
“It could make sense to provide an extra dose in that situation to dampen down transmission,” Henry said.
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