Vaccinated Travel: COVID-19 Nurse, Emily Scott, Answers FAQ

Vaccinated Travel: COVID-19 Nurse, Emily Scott, Answers FAQ

So many places around the world are opening up for tourism. Some are opening up for everyone, and others are opening up solely for fully-vaccinated travelers. With multiple countries, cities, restaurants, and other tourist-attracting sites opening their doors, many questions come to mind. Is it safe to travel again if you’re vaccinated? What is considered ‘essential travel’ and what isn’t? I recently interviewed COVID-19 Nurse, Emily Scott, from the travel blog Two Dusty Travelers, to help answer these questions. Emily has been working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one in Seattle, USA. Here’s what she has to say about vaccinated travel, vaccine tourism, and more.

How long have you been a nurse for and how long have you been working on the front lines of the COVID pandemic?

COVID 19 Nurse in full PPE / Vaccinated Travel
RN Emily Scott in full PPE when caring for the 1st ever COVID patient in the USA.

I’ve been a nurse for 11 years. I’ve been on the front lines of the COVID pandemic since day one in the US – the first COVID patient in the country came to my hospital, and I’m part of the biocontainment team that cared for him.

Now that vaccines are becoming more available, do you think it is safe
for vaccinated people to return to traveling?

There’s no easy answer to this, unfortunately! With so much inequity in how vaccines are being distributed, in addition to vaccine hesitancy in some places, travel is a huge gray area. Fully vaccinated people are far less likely to catch or spread COVID, but nothing is 100%. Decisions about travel will come down to a personal risk/benefit comparison, alongside research into the situation on the ground where you’re thinking of traveling.
For example, Someone who’s fully vaccinated and low risk might feel comfortable traveling to Seattle (where I live), where vaccine uptake is high and infection rates are relatively low. If that person was immune-compromised or considering traveling to a place with low vaccine uptake and higher infection rates, they might feel differently.
It’s also essential to do your research about the situation on the ground. Every country has different travel requirements around COVID, and they change frequently. If a community is in the midst of an outbreak or asking travelers not to come, that needs to be respected.

What do you think about travel for unvaccinated people?

Unvaccinated people should avoid travel unless it’s absolutely essential, both for their safety and others. We know that COVID is transmissible before people begin to show symptoms, so just because someone feels fine doesn’t mean they aren’t spreading the virus to others. We’ve already seen cases of unvaccinated travelers bringing COVID to the communities they visit. Just one unvaccinated person could spark an outbreak that kills many people.

There are a lot of people who are adamantly against getting vaccinated too. What do you think they are afraid of and what would you tell them if you could?

Misinformation is responsible for most of the vaccine hesitancy I see. It’s incredibly widespread and damaging. This pandemic has been an unprecedented and frightening experience for most people, and they’re finding it hard to know who to trust within the hurricane of information that’s available online and on TV. Vaccine hesitancy definitely isn’t one-size-fits-all – I’ve heard legitimate concerns (like those from communities of color that have historically been mistreated by the medical establishment), conspiracy theories (like the vaccine containing a microchip or making people infertile), and everything in between. I have several highlights on my Instagram addressing every concern about the vaccines.

I would tell vaccine-hesitant people two things:

1) Get your vaccine information from reliable sources who are experts in this field, not inflammatory youtube videos or “wellness” influencers.

2) At this point, you are either going to get vaccinated or eventually catch COVID. With everything opening back up and the highly contagious Delta variant, there is no third option. It’s important to realistically compare the risks of those two options. Catching COVID is far, far more likely to cause long-term health consequences or death than the vaccine. And remember that it’s not only about you: If you’re unvaccinated and catch COVID, you’re likely to infect someone around you.

Aside from getting vaccinated, what else can people do to stay safe on their travels? Should people be sticking mainly to domestic travel for now?

COVID19 Nurse Emily Scott in PPE
RN Emily Scott wearing a face mask & other PPE
Mask up! Even with mask mandates being dropped in some places, I plan to continue wearing mine in public indoor spaces. It’s especially essential during travel, when you’re likely to be indoors with many people coming from a variety of places, whose vaccine status you can’t know.
Whether or not we should stick to domestic travel is hard to say – I think it really depends on the status of the virus and vaccinations where you live, and where you’re going. For example, I would not feel comfortable traveling to many countries in Africa right now, where cases are rising and vaccines are not widely available. I might consider travel to a country where vaccination rates are high and travelers are required to be vaccinated.
Keeping activities outside and socially distanced is also very helpful. And keep washing those hands!

I know from experience that a lot of people in Mexico are traveling to the USA to get vaccinated. I also know that the Maldives and other countries are welcoming visitors and offering vaccines on arrival. What do you think about vaccine tourism?

Vaccine tourism is unavoidable when there is so much inequity in how vaccines are being distributed. It’s shameful that wealthy countries have hoarded vaccines, while historically excluded countries may wait years for enough shots. I don’t blame anyone for doing whatever they need to do to get vaccinated. That falls under the category of “essential travel” in my opinion.
I would encourage anyone considering vaccine tourism to remember that it’s not risk-free. You are increasing your risk of catching COVID by spending time in crowded airports and on planes, so mask up and distance as much as possible. Also, this isn’t a vacation: You are still considered unvaccinated until 2 weeks after your final dose, so if you’re traveling to get vaccinated, you should quarantine at your destination (aside from going to get your shot).

Do you think that we should avoid travel to certain areas of the world where vaccines aren’t as readily available? Or where the Delta variant is more common?

Yes, I think we should avoid travel to places where vaccines aren’t widely available. Although vaccinated travelers are far less likely to spread COVID than unvaccinated travelers, it’s not impossible. And it’s often the case that places, where vaccines aren’t readily available, are also places where health systems are fragile and an outbreak could be catastrophic. At this point, I think we can safely assume that Delta is everywhere, so we need to be extra cautious with this more contagious variant.

Is there anything else you would like to say to people reading this article?

Vaccine clinic / Vaccinated Travel
RN Emily Scott working at a vaccine clinic

The best thing you can do to get us all back to traveling again is to get vaccinated! If you’ve already done that, please talk with the vaccine-hesitant people in your life. A conversation with someone they trust could be the thing that changes their mind, and every unvaccinated person just prolongs the pandemic and pushes normal travel farther away for the rest of us. Stay calm, ask questions and really listen, share reliable sources, and take your time. These conversations usually aren’t quick, but they tend to work if you’re patient and kind.

You can follow Emily’s helpful travel and COVID safety recommendations on Instagram by clicking here or by visiting her travel blog, Two Dustry Travelers, by clicking here.

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