The CDC just changed the COVID-19 travel rules for fully vaccinated people

New COVID-19 travel recommendations by the US CDC have given the green light to fully vaccinated people to get back on planes or take other trips, though pandemic precautions should still be observed the agency warns. The new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that fully-vaccinated travelers are both less likely to get, and to spread, COVID-19.

"Fully vaccinated travelers do not need to get tested before or after travel unless their destination requires it," the CDC said today, adding that "fully vaccinated travelers do not need to self-quarantine" either. Nonetheless, despite the loosening of the rules, the CDC continues to recommend against travel due to recent spikes in coronavirus cases around the US.

"Fully vaccinated" is a specific definition here, and it means more than just having had one or two shots of an individual vaccine as appropriate. People are only considered to be fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose has been administered. That means after the second shot in a two-dose series, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, or after the first shot in a single-dose vaccine such as Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine.

"If you don't meet these requirements, you are NOT fully vaccinated," the CDC points out. "Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated. If you have a condition or are taking medication that weakens your immune system, you may NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider. Even after vaccination, you may need to continue taking all precautions."

All the same, since travelers who have been fully vaccinated can't be certain of the immunization status of the people they're coming into contact with, the CDC says that the basic precautions of the pandemic should continue to be observed. That means wearing a mask that covers both the nose and mouth, staying 6 feet away from others and avoiding crowds, and observing hygiene protocols like washing your hands frequently and/or using hand sanitizer.

The CDC particularly called out the possibility of vaccinated grandparents flying to visit the grandkids as now permitted under the amended rules. Those who are not fully vaccinated – either because they have not had a shot at all, or because they are partway through that process – should continue to delay travel if at all possible, the CDC maintains.

The impact on travel of the COVID-19 pandemic has been considerable, though TSA figures suggest that in recent weeks numbers of air travelers have been creeping back up to pre-coronavirus levels. Airlines, too, have gradually been loosening the preventative measures taken early on in the pandemic, with steps like blocking middle seats being reverted.

The airline industry had been pressing the CDC to update its guidance on travel, in the hope that a new version would reflect an increase in safety for fully vaccinated individuals to fly. Recent research by Pfizer indicates that immunity to COVID-19 – and some of its most prevalent variants – maintains at least six months after the second shot was administered.