Many traveling abroad may remain inadvisable, especially to places with less widespread vaccine access. As we move forward and start planning trips again, we must consider essential factors before grabbing our passports and jetting off. HuffPost asked bioethicists and and travel experts to weigh in on the ethics of traveling abroad before vaccines have been widely administered worldwide. Read on for their thoughts.long for the days when they could take a dream vacation to Paris, Bali, or just over the Toronto border. As vaccine availability increases in the U.S., people feel a glimmer of hope that will be back on the table soon. But even as more people get vaccinated, and countries open up to American tourists,
We haven’t ruled out transmission risk.
“Individuals who are― although not 100% ― against developing the severe disease if infected with SARS-CoV-2,” said Amy McGuire, professor of biomedical ethics and director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. It’s possible that vaccinated travelers could still transmit the virus to others. Hence, until we have more data on how much vaccines , we can’t draw significant conclusions about travel ethics in the coming weeks and months. “However, we still demonstrate how well different vaccines protect against virus transmission.”
“If someone in the U.S. travels to another country, they may have an asymptomatic infection that they bring with them to the other country, putting people there at risk,” William Miller, senior associate dean for research at the Ohio State University’s College of Public Health, told HuffPost in an email. “Or they may acquire an infection there and bring it back wo the people they are close to. The vaccinated traveler may not get sick, but they may others to become sick ― that’s why, in general, it still is not a good idea to travel yet.”
Virus variants can be a cause for concern.
“Other countries may have higher rates ofthat are more transmissible and, in some cases, may cause more severe disease,” Miller said. “The transmission of these variants to and from vaccinated people is a concerning possibility.” As we still have much to learn about new variants (like whether the currently approved against them and reduce their transmission), it’s important to remain cautious and keep unnecessary travel to a minimum. “Travelers may be infected with a novel variant and get sick, and potentially increase its spread in the U.S.,” said Gabriel Lázaro-Muñoz, an assistant professor at Baylor’s Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy.
All healthcare infrastructure is not created equal.
“Pleasein most countries is just getting started, and they may not have COVID under control,” Lázaro-Muñoz noted. “Travelers could add more pressure to strained in other countries.” Countries with minimal outbreaks can also be vulnerable, especially if they don’t have the same and vaccination resources as wealthier nations. A recent piece by James Hamblin in The Atlantic pointed to the disparities in vaccine access.
“Vietnam, for example, is a country of 97that has had fewer than 1,600 cases of COVID-19 and 35 deaths,” Hamblin wrote. “They have done an exemplary of controlling the virus and presumably have deficient levels of immunity.” Nicole Hassoun, a visiting scholar at Cornell University and professor of philosophy at Binghamton University who studies public health ethics, made a similar point to HuffPost.
“While most people in rich countries will probably have access to a vaccine this year, those in poor countries will likely have to wait years to get vaccinated,” Hassoun said. “However, poor countries might rely on the international tourism travel brings, and in some cases even do worse, all things considered, without it,” she added. “So if you decide not to travel, you might consider finding other ways to support businesses and people in poor places this . If nothing else, you might consider donating the money you would have used traveling for fun.”
There’s reason to be cautiously optimistic for the future.
“As vaccine rollout advances, there will be much less community transmission, less likelihood of infection, and less likelihood of novel variants emerging,” Lázaro-Muñoz explained. As the number of vaccinated people increases worldwide, prospects for international travel may also improve. “This will likely make tourism moreyou may pose to others. At that point, you should feel more comfortable traveling to other countries.”
Highrates, in both the traveler’s destination and country of origin, may make travel possible again, assuming we learn the current vaccines provide lasting immunity and considerably reduce transmission rates. “One way to think about this is that you want to be in a fairly normal situation where your local situation is open, with more or less normal activities albeit with masking and distancing,” Miller said. “And you want to be going to a place that is also fairly normal. And in both situations, you want rates low, despite the openness.”
“Pent-up demand from a year of lockdown, combined with a significant increase in remote work flexibility, a decrease in required business travel, and respect for the fact you never know when the world will shut down again, will cause people to travel like never before.” in this scenario, travel demand will likely reach new heights, Konrad Waliszewski, co-founder and CEO of the travel app Tripscout. “Once a high percentage of the world is vaccinated, prepare to witness the biggest travel boom the world has ever seen,” he said.
Still, we must continue to act with caution. The key to global travel will be making the vaccine accessible to as manyas possible, preventing the development and spread of new coronavirus variants. “We are currently in a race to get enough people vaccinated that we achieve herd immunity before new viral strains that are resistant to the vaccines emerge and spread,” McGuire said. “So the answer to that question depends on how successful we are over the coming months at vaccinating large percentages of the population while controlling the spread of new viral strains.”
The answer may vary based on the destination.
If we can travel abroad this health care access,” said Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of public health at New Mexico State University. In addition to community transmission and , Khubchandani advised taking the prevalence of new virus variants. Even if you are vaccinated, a country with a is not the best place to visit since we aren’t sure how well the current vaccines protect against them. A country’s vaccination rate will also care situation there., there will still be factors to consider when choosing a destination. “I would look at how well the virus is being controlled in a certain destination, the number of deaths, and
“Many countries are heavily dependent on tourism and may allow travelers because it is such an important part of their economy, but that may not mean they have COVID under control, and theircould be struggling,” Lázaro-Muñoz said. “Think of yourself as being a guest at a friend’s house. If your friend was having serious difficulty, and your presence at the house somehow added to that, you would not want to add more trouble.”
Department’s website or elsewhere. Consider the public health measures that a given destination has in place. If there are strict lockdowns and quarantine requirements (likely for a good reason), you probably won’t be able to have the tourism experience you’d prefer. Still, some international travel scenarios could be lower-risk and doable this . Just think about the impact of your travel on yourself, the wherever you’re going, and the ones you’ll be returning home to.
One significant consideration is “whether the visit will be spent mostly indoors or outdoors,” Miller said. “If someone goes to aand will spend all of their time outside, including when they are eating, and only spend time inside in their hotel room, then the risk would be shallow. The same would be true of any vacation or trip where the activity is primarily outside ― hiking and boating. But a trip with a focus indoors, like visiting museums, eating inside in restaurants, [and] visiting pubs, will have a higher risk.”
If you do travel, take precautions.
Some reasons for international travel are better than others ― as an emergency, visiting a dying relative, or getting a rare treat for a severe disease. Still, many leisure travel, which will inevitably grow as vaccination rates increase. If you decide to travel abroad, taking the necessary health precautions to protect yourself and the people you’ll encounter is essential.
“You have to be willing to follow the COVID preventive measures those countries have in place,” Lázaro-Muñoz said. “This could include pre-travel COVID testing and businesses and lodgings you plan to visit do the same. Being a tourist does not mean local rules do not apply to you.”. Keep your distance from others, mask up, and wash your hands. Follow public health measures, and make intelligent decisions as the situation evolves. Ensure your travel companions and the
“Research and detailed trip planning are more important than ever,” Waliszewski said. “American travelers must constantly stay updated on rapidly changing situations on the ground and the corresponding guidelines in the States and abroad. Travelers must also consider testing and quarantine requirements, safety guidelines, and local healthcare infrastructure before departing for any destination. I don’t see this planning going away anytime soon, even after a high vaccination rate [is achieved].”
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your health isn’t the only thing that matters. “In this, we always have to consider how our behavior affects others,” Miller emphasized. “Your vaccination protects you, and it may protect others. But we have to remain cautious until we know that it protects others by reducing transmission.”