MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, November 7, 2021 - Effective Monday November 8, 2021, non-citizens who are non-immigrants traveling to the United States by air, from any part of the world, must establish that they are fully vaccinated before entry to that country will be granted.
A separate CDC order also require all air travelers to show results of a negative coronavirus test performed on a specimen taken three days (if fully vaccinated) or one day (if not fully vaccinated and entering under an exception) preceding their flight's departure from a foreign country traveling to the United States.
"Non-citizens who are nonimmigrants" who are traveling by air will have to show both the negative COVID viral test and documentation that they are either fully vaccinated or are eligible for an exception to the vaccination requirement.
The United States will however accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or have received an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization (WHO).
This poses a challenge for many travellers from the Caribbean and Latin America who have been given vaccines other than those made in the United States. These include the Russian Sputnik and the Chinese vaccines. Only recently, Jamaicans who were given the AstraZeneca were denied entry to Britain as the AstraZeneca vaccine used in Jamaica was not recognized by that country.
Which vaccines are on the OK list
If you've been vaccinated, you'll have to show a digital or paper version of the card along with an ID that matches all of your personal information on the vaccine card. But not all versions of the vaccine qualify. Under the new rules, accepted vaccines for travel to the U.S. are limited to those currently on the World Health Organization or U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized or approved lists. That includes Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), AstraZeneca-Oxford, Covaxin and the two Chinese vaccines, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
But it leaves out, for example, the widely used Russian vaccine Sputnik V. India, Mexico, Turkey, Honduras, Iran and the Palestinian territories are among the places that have used the Sputnik vaccine to vaccinate millions.
The Cuban vaccines Abdala and Soberana have also not been mentioned but while awaiting a response from the WHO, Cuba has begun exporting the Abdala to Venezuela, Vietnam and Nicaragua.
At home, Cuba is vaccinating its population at one of the fastest rates in the world with its Abdala, Soberana-2 and Soberana Plus, all authorized for emergency use by local regulators amid a Delta variant-driven surge that has strained its health system.
Cuba is the only country in the Caribbean to have developed its own vaccine against the virus. More than 65% of Cubans have currently received at least one shot and 37% have been fully vaccinated with three shots, according to the health ministry.
The country says its vaccines have an efficacy above 90% and initial results are similar to those of other top vaccines significantly reducing transmission, critical illness and death, though critics have complained those results have yet to be peer reviewed.
The CDC hasn't said why Sputnik didn't make the cut but WHO raised concerns about the vaccine's manufacturing plant this summer. What's more, an Associated Press report noted that some countries that received the first of Sputnik's two doses had trouble getting all the second doses needed.
The CDC has not recommended the use of mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, such strategies are increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the purpose of interpreting vaccination records for travel to the United States, CDC will accept combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.
Much of the world is not vaccinated. According to current information from Our World in Data, 49.4% of the world's population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but only 3.6% of people in low-income countries have.
For those who aren't vaccinated (or didn't get a vaccine from the approved list), a trip to the U.S. is still possible – but only if they meet one of the conditions for an exception as detailed on lists from the U.S. State Department.
Perhaps the most sweeping exception is for travelers with passports from any country where fewer than 10% of the country's population has been vaccinated. That list will be regularly updated, according to the State Department. Currently, there are 50 countries on the list, 34 of them in Africa.
The new Biden administration rules also address protocols after arrival in the U.S., including more testing, isolating if you do contract COVID-19 and a strong nudge to get the vaccination for people who will be in the country 60 days or longer. Here's a link to everything U.S. citizens and foreigners need to know about what's expected of them in the days after travel to the U.S. from another country.