Most Major Cruise Lines Accepting Mixed Vaccines: Good News For Canadians

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As the world goes back to normal and cruise ships return to the oceans, we’re finally beginning to understand the vaccine requirements from cruise ships. 

Canadian travelers were worried about mixed vaccines and how that would affect their ability to travel going forward. Many Canadians received mixed vaccine doses, and some countries aren’t accepting mixed vaccine doses yet. 

The CDC’s position on mixed vaccines was unclear until recent weeks. The CDC now recognizes some mixed vaccine doses as fully vaccinated. 

But thankfully, most cruise ships accept mixed vaccines, and we have the complete list of entry requirements here.

Royal Caribbean Cruises

Royal Caribbean Cruises currently accepts guests with mixed vaccine doses as fully vaccinated.

However, Royal Caribbean Cruises states, “We understand some guests may have been vaccinated with doses from two different vaccine manufacturers.

“Whether these are accepted depends on where you are sailing from and the mix of manufacturers. In addition, mixed vaccines may not be accepted at all ports of call.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises are following the CDC’s guidelines.

Cruises departing from ports inside the U.S.

  • Mixed mRNA Vaccines – For sailings departing the U.S, the CDC recognizes a mixed series of mRNA vaccines as fully vaccines. For example, 1 shot of Pfizer with 1 shot of Moderna. However, the doses must be administered 28 days apart. Royal Caribbean cruises will consider guests fully vaccinated 14 days after the final dose. 
  • Mixed mRNA with AstraZeneca Vaccine – Royal Caribbean cruises will not consider guests fully vaccinated if their two shots consist of only 1 mRNA dose with 1 AstraZeneca dose. Royal Caribbean states they’re going to “continue to encourage the CDC and other U.S. government officials to re-evaluate this policy.”

Cruises departing from ports outside of the U.S. 

Royal Caribbean cruises will accept mixed doses of Pfizer and Moderna, or AstraZeneca with Moderna or Pfizer if they’re departing from outside of the United States.

The doses must be separated by at least 4 weeks and not more than 12 weeks for combinations of AstraZeneca with Pfizer or Moderna. 

Royal Caribbean accepts straight doses of vaccines approved by the World Health Organization and the U.S. FDA. The company considers guests fully vaccinated 14 days after the final dose of vaccines. 

For example, Royal Caribbean accepts 1 shot of Johnson & Johnson, 2 shots of Pfizer, 2 of Moderna, and 2 of AstraZeneca. 

Carnival Cruises 

Carnival Cruises, which own Princess, Seabourn, Holland, and Costa, currently accept guests with mixed vaccine doses as fully vaccinated.

However, Carnival Cruises currently accepts mixing mRNA vaccines only, such as Pfizer and Moderna. However, Carnival Cruises doesn’t accept guests as fully vaccinated with any other vaccine combination.

They state, “Canadian or other international guests who received a combination of AstraZeneca and Pfizer are considered unvaccinated by the CDC.”

Guests considered unvaccinated by Carnival Cruises will need to follow the applicable vaccination exemption requirements.

These include a 72-hour negative PCR test at check-in, an additional antigen test at embarkation, and another test within 24 hours of debarkation on all cruises exceeding 4 days in length. 

Norwegian Cruise Lines 

Norweigan Cruise Lines currently accepts guests with mixed vaccine doses as fully vaccinated.

However, the cruise accepts a mixed protocol of AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Moderna combinations with a minimum interval of 28 days.

The cruise accepts straight doses of all vaccines approved by the FDA, EMA, and the World Health Organization. 

They also state guests who’ve received a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine before another COVID-19 vaccine are still considered fully vaccinated by the company two weeks after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

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Covid-19 and Boosters Live News: Vaccines, Travel Restrictions and More – Our Community Now at Maryland

Covid-19 and Boosters Live News: Vaccines, Travel Restrictions and More  Our Community Now at Maryland

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Covid-19 and Boosters Live News: Vaccines, Travel Restrictions and More




F.D.A. Panel Endorses J.&J. Covid-19 Vaccine Boosters

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended authorizing booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years or older, at least two months after the first dose.

“Today, we are seeking authorization for use of Janssen’s Ad26 Covid vaccine as a homologous booster in those individuals who were previously vaccinated with the single dose.” “Do available data support the safety and effectiveness of Janssen’s Covid-19 vaccine for use under EUA as a booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older, at least two months after a single dose primary vaccination?” “We do have 19 out of 19 unanimous yes votes for this question. Thank you.”

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A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended authorizing booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years or older, at least two months after the first dose.CreditCredit…Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory panel unanimously voted on Friday to recommend authorizing booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years or older, at least two months after the first dose. The F.D.A. typically follows the panel’s advice.

Before the vote, a top agency official, Dr. Peter Marks, said that the agency might consider regulatory action that would allow Johnson & Johnson recipients to receive a booster shot of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccines. But Dr. Marks, who oversees the F.D.A.’s vaccine division, gave no timetable for any decision, saying only that authorization of a different vaccine as a booster for Johnson & Johnson recipients was “possible.”

Many panel members said that a second dose was important because the first dose did not provide strong enough protection. Unlike the other vaccines available in the United States, Johnson & Johnson chose to seek authorization for a single dose — a decision that some committee members couched as a mistake in hindsight.

“I think this frankly was always a two-dose vaccine,” said Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease expert at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Johnson & Johnson representatives presented their case Friday morning during a meeting of the advisory panel, arguing that a second dose given either two months or six months after the first shot increased antibody levels, part of the immune response to vaccines. They also said that the single dose remained durable.

Federal vaccine experts also walked through the company’s data, repeatedly pointing out its shortcomings. They warned that the two-month booster trial only followed up with study volunteers for a short period of time after their second shot. They also noted that a key test used by the company to measure the antibodies produced by a booster had a low sensitivity, calling the results into question — a concern raised by panel members on Friday.

Dr. Archana Chatterjee, an infectious disease expert at Rosalind Franklin University, asked the F.D.A. why it convened the panel if its own experts had not had time to verify the company’s data. Dr. Marks, the agency’s top vaccine regulator who has argued for a “harmonized” approach to booster policy, said it could have taken a month to verify all the data from the company’s largest-scale two-dose trial and several weeks to review the smaller studies.

The regulators did not see any evidence of serious safety concerns in the booster studies. But they noted they were not afforded enough time to independently review much of the data that Johnson & Johnson provided in its application for authorization, including in its large, two-dose trial that the company said made a clear case for bumping up protection with a booster.

Some federal officials appeared skeptical of the claims the company made about the efficacy of one dose, and expressed worry that those who received it are not as protected as Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech recipients.

“It was used as an outreach vaccine,” Dr. Marks said. “Many of the people who got that may not have been part of a health maintenance organization or an organized health care system.”

Dr. Amanda Cohn, a C.D.C. official, said that “the effectiveness or protection with a single dose of the J.&J. vaccine is not equivalent” to two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.”

Some committee members argued that the vaccine should have been used in a two-dose regimen from the start.

Panel members repeatedly conveyed concern about the size of the study Johnson & Johnson used to ask for authorization of a six-month interval. “I’m not sure why you’re asking for an indication that would apply to millions of patients with a data set that includes 17 patients,” said Dr. Eric Rubin, an adjunct professor of immunology and infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

After voting on a Johnson & Johnson booster, the panel heard from Dr. Kirsten Lyke of the University of Maryland School of Medicine about a study in which she and her colleagues found that Johnson & Johnson recipients may benefit more from a Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech booster.

Dr. Lyke and her colleagues carried out a “mix and match” study with different combinations of the three vaccines.

Preliminary data from the study showed that those who got a Johnson & Johnson shot followed by a Moderna booster saw their antibody levels rise 76-fold within 15 days, whereas those who received a Johnson & Johnson booster saw only a fourfold rise in the same period. A Pfizer-BioNTech booster raised antibody levels in Johnson & Johnson recipients 35-fold.

Several panelists said they felt comfortable with the amount of data the N.I.H. researchers had gathered to recommend F.D.A. authorization. Dr. Ofer Levy, director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Harvard’s Boston Children’s Hospital, said that many Americans had already taken the matter into the own hands and urged the F.D.A. to step in.

“It’s a matter of some urgency for F.D.A. to help sort out what is admittedly a complicated and challenging scenario,” he said. “We can’t hide from it. And I do think we need to give guidance to the public.”

Dr. Cohn, the C.D.C. official, said that the F.D.A. could perhaps allow for general language in its authorizations of the vaccines that would allow for combinations. “From a public health perspective, there’s a clear need in some situations for individuals to receive a different vaccine,” she said, including those who do not have access to the same vaccine they received the first time, or those who now realize they might have increased risk of some side effects from the same vaccine.

The N.I.H. trial only looked at antibody levels, which on their own are an insufficient measure of how well different combinations would protect people. Dr. Lyke said that studies on immune cell responses were underway.

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of expert advisers voted on Friday to recommend authorizing booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine for people 18 and older, at least two months after the first dose. The committee also voted on Thursday to recommend booster shots for many recipients of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine.

While the panel’s recommendations are not binding, they are very likely to influence the F.D.A.’s decision — typically issued within a few days after the advisory committee weighs in. If the agency says yes to the boosters, the process moves to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Who are the experts on the F.D.A.’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee?

The committee now has 19 voting members who are scientific authorities from a range of fields, including immunology, vaccine safety and virology. Many are medical practitioners.

Dr. Arnold Monto, the acting chair of the committee, is a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Here are the other voting members:

  • Dr. Archana Chatterjee, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, is the dean of the Chicago Medical School and vice president for medical affairs at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.

  • Capt. Amanda Cohn is a doctor and senior official overseeing vaccine policy at the C.D.C.’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

  • Dr. Oveta Fuller is a trained pathologist and an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at University of Michigan Medical School.

  • Dr. Hayley Gans is a professor of pediatrics infectious diseases at Stanford University Medical Center.

  • Dr. James Hildreth is a professor of medicine and the president and chief executive officer of Meharry Medical College.

  • Dr. Randy Hawkins is a practicing physician who specializes in internal medicine and sits on the committee as a consumer representative.

  • Dr. Michael Kurilla is a senior official with expertise in infectious diseases and vaccine development at the National Institutes of Health.

  • Dr. Jeanette Lee is a professor of biostatistics at the University of Arkansas For Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Ark., and an expert on clinical trials.

  • Dr. Ofer Levy is the director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, and a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

  • Dr. H. Cody Meissner is professor of pediatric infectious disease at the Tufts University School of Medicine and Tufts Children’s Hospital in Boston.

  • Dr. Patrick Moore is a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Dr. Michael Nelson is a professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He is also president of the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

  • Dr. Paul Offit is a professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

  • Dr. Steven Pergam is an expert on infectious diseases at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and an associate professor at the University of Washington.

  • Dr. Stanley Perlman is professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa, and a pediatric infectious diseases specialist with expertise in coronaviruses.

  • Dr. Eric Rubin is the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine and an expert on infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

  • Dr. Mark Sawyer is a professor of pediatrics and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Diego, and Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

  • Dr. Melinda Wharton is the associate director for vaccine policy at the C.D.C.’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

An independent panel of experts advising the Food and Drug Administration voted on Thursday to recommend a booster shot for many recipients of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, and on Friday to recommend authorizing booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years or older, at least two months after the first dose.

So what happens now? There are further steps at the F.D.A., then steps at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the process ends with the states. Here’s how it breaks down.

  • The F.D.A., a federal agency of the Department of Health and Human Services that controls and supervises medications and other elements related to public health, takes up the advisory panel’s recommendation, which includes the question of who should be eligible. The advisory panel’s votes are not binding, but the F.D.A. typically follows them.

  • The F.D.A.’s top official — its acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock — issues the agency’s final determination on whether to authorize the boosters and for whom. Such decisions are typically issued within a few days of advisory committee meetings.

  • An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States’ public health agency, reviews the F.D.A.’s decision. On Thursday and Friday of next week, that panel is scheduled to meet and vote on its recommendations regarding boosters.

  • The C.D.C. takes up that panel’s recommendations, and the agency’s director, Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, issues the agency’s guidance on whether boosters should be used and who should be eligible. That guidance is deeply influential for states, doctors, pharmacies and other health care institutions and the general public. As with the process at the F.D.A., the panel’s recommendations are not binding, but the C.D.C. usually follows them.

    However, there was a rare exception last month: When a C.D.C. advisory panel rejected the F.D.A.’s recommendation that frontline workers be included among those eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech booster, Dr. Walensky overrode her own agency’s advisers and sided with the F.D.A.

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

State health departments generally follow the recommendations of the C.D.C. In the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster, the shots began being administered widely immediately after Dr. Walensky announced the C.D.C.’s guidance to allow them for people over 65, patients in nursing homes and other institutional settings, those with underlying medical conditions, and frontline workers.

Credit…Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times, via Associated Press

A clash between Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and the head of the city’s largest police union over coronavirus vaccinations intensified on Friday as the city filed a complaint against the union, arguing that it was threatening an illegal strike.

City employees in Chicago are required to report their vaccination status by the end of Friday, but John Catanzara, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago, has urged police officers to ignore the order and risk discipline or loss of pay. Employees who are not vaccinated will be subject to twice-weekly testing, but vaccinations are not required.

Mr. Catanzara released a video on Tuesday predicting that Chicago police officers would not report to work because of the policy. He said that if a large number of police officers refuse to submit to testing or reporting their vaccination status to the city, “it’s safe to say the city of Chicago will have a police force at 50 percent or less for this weekend coming up.”

“Whatever happens because of the manpower issue, that falls at the mayor’s doorstep,” he added.

He escalated the dispute on Thursday, releasing another video that urged officers not to comply with any direct orders from their supervisors to provide their vaccination status in an online portal.

But, on Friday, the police union said in a statement: “President John Catanzara has never engaged in, supported, or encouraged a work stoppage.” The police union also announced that it had filed its own legal request for the courts to hear the case.

Ms. Lightfoot, who has often faced resistance from Mr. Catanzara since taking office in 2019, said in a statement on Friday that his actions threatened public safety.

“As Chicago’s mayor, I cannot and will not stand idly by while the rhetoric of conspiracy theorists threatens the health and safety of Chicago’s residents and first responders,” Ms. Lightfoot said in a statement. “President Catanzara has time and again deliberately misled our police officers by lying about the requirements of the policy and falsely claiming that there will be no repercussions if officers are insubordinate and refuse to follow a city and department directive or order.”

A strike from the police union is illegal under both state law and the union’s contract with the city, Ms. Lightfoot said.

Chicago is following other cities throughout the United States in requiring city employees to be vaccinated or submit to frequent coronavirus testing. Last week, Ms. Lightfoot softened the original policy requiring vaccination, saying that public workers could opt out of the city’s mandate until the end of the year by getting tested regularly.

City officials have said that employees who fail to report their vaccination status by the Friday deadline will be placed on unpaid leave.

Law enforcement officers have died of Covid-19 in large numbers throughout the pandemic, making the virus by far the most common cause of duty-related deaths in 2020 and 2021, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that catalogs the deaths of law enforcement officers.

Police officers in many departments have been slow to get vaccinated, and several other cities have issued vaccine or testing mandates. In San Jose, Calif., city leaders decided just as a vaccine mandate was taking effect to allow unvaccinated officers to remain employed through the end of the year, with incremental discipline and testing requirements.

Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

International travelers fully vaccinated against the coronavirus who have been barred from entering the United States during the pandemic will be able to enter the country on Nov. 8, according to a White House official, marking an end to restrictions that had walled off tourists and relatives seeking to visit their families.

The specific date for when the Biden administration would lift travel restrictions for those traveling by air or hoping to cross the land border was previously unclear. The administration last month said it would be implementing a new system in which fully vaccinated foreigners who show proof of a negative coronavirus test would be able to fly to the United States in early November.

Earlier this week, administration officials said those hoping to enter from Mexico or Canada who are fully vaccinated would be able to cross at the same time. But thousands around the world eager to organize their travel plans were still left wondering what specific date they would be able to enter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers people fully inoculated two weeks after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Those who have received vaccines listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, such as the AstraZeneca vaccine, would also be considered fully vaccinated, according to the C.D.C.

The new travel system also comes with stringent requirements.

Unvaccinated foreigners will be broadly barred from entering the United States, although the White House official said there will be limited exemptions, including for young children.

Those who were never banned from traveling across the land borders, including commercial drivers and students, will also need to show proof of vaccination when crossing starting in January, giving them some time to adjust to the new rules, officials said. Those crossing land borders will not need to show a coronavirus test.

Foreigners hoping to fly to the United States will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding and a negative coronavirus test within three days of entering.

Unvaccinated Americans traveling from overseas will need to test negative for the coronavirus one day before returning home and show proof that they have bought a test to take after arriving in the United States.

The U.S. Travel Association, an industry group, applauded the moves.

“The date is critically important for planning — for airlines, for travel-supported businesses, and for millions of travelers worldwide who will now advance plans to visit the United States once again,” Roger Dow, the group’s president, said in a statement. “Reopening to international visitors will provide a jolt to the economy and accelerate the return of travel-related jobs that were lost due to travel restrictions.”

A spokeswoman for Airlines for America, another industry group, noted that even before the announcement of the date, airlines had seen an uptick in ticket sales to the United States from abroad.

“The full reopening of international travel is also critical to reviving economies around the globe, reinvigorating communities and supporting millions of jobs in the U.S. and abroad,” Katherine Estep, the spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Credit…Andrew Medichini/Associated Press

ROME — Italy on Friday set a new bar for major Western democracies seeking to move beyond the pandemic by enacting a sweeping law that requires the nation’s entire work force — public and private — to have government-issued health passes, essentially forcing Italians to choose between getting a pass and earning a living.

With the step, Italy, the first democracy to quarantine towns and apply national lockdowns, is again first across a new threshold, making clear that it is willing to use the full leverage of the state to try to curb the pandemic and get the economy moving.

Italy’s measures, which require proof of vaccination, a negative rapid swab test or recent recovery from Covid-19 to go to the workplace, now stand as some of the toughest among Western democracies, which have struggled to balance public health needs with civil liberty concerns.

For many Western governments, like those of the United States and France, that has resulted in refraining from national mandates while seeking other ways to encourage, coax and even mildly coerce people to get vaccinated.

Under Italy’s new rules, those who do not have a Green Pass, as the health certificate is called, must take unpaid leave. Employers are responsible for verifying the certificates, which are for the most part shown on a cellphone app, though hard copies are also acceptable. Workers risk fines of up to 1,500 euros — or about $1,750 — for not complying.

Not everyone has been accepting of the requirements. Last weekend, a demonstration of 10,000 Green Pass opponents — a mix of vaccine skeptics, conspiracy theorists, anti-establishment types and workers livid about having to pay for frequent swabs — was hijacked by right-wing extremists and turned violent, prompting Italy to once again reckon with its fascist legacy.

But on Friday, the rollout went more or less smoothly, with only scattered protests, as the majority of citizens accepted the new pass as a fact of Italian life and a tolerable sacrifice, like wearing masks indoors, to help the country get out of the pandemic and return to normalcy.

Global Roundup

Credit…Choe Jae-Koo/Yonhap, via Associated Press

South Korea said on Friday that it was a week ahead of schedule for fully vaccinating 70 percent of its population against Covid and that it would ease social-distancing rules starting next week.

“If vaccinations continue without any setbacks and cases remain controlled in the next two weeks, a full-fledged transition to the new strategy will be possible from November,” said Lee Gi-il, a senior official in the health ministry.

In an effort to encourage more people to get vaccinated, President Moon Jae-in and the first lady, Kim Jung-sook, each received a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in public on Friday.

South Korea never went into a full lockdown but has imposed stringent social-distancing rules, including a mask mandate, even outdoors. The country reached record numbers of new infections a few weeks ago after a major holiday, but daily coronavirus case numbers dropped to a seven-day average of 1,386 in the past week, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The number of reported deaths has remained very low, at 0.02 per 100,000 people in the past week, according to the data. Nearly 63 percent of the country had been fully vaccinated as of Thursday, the health authorities said.

The rules are being relaxed as the pace of vaccinations outperforms earlier expectations, health officials said. Officials said they would likely reach the 70 percent target by the end of next week — about a week sooner than expected.

For the two-week period starting on Monday, the government will allow gatherings of up to four people who are not fully vaccinated, expanding the limit by two, and will permit reading rooms, performance halls and movie theaters to stay open until midnight, two hours longer than before.

People who are fully vaccinated will also be allowed to watch sports events in person again and to attend larger weddings, officials said.

Curbs on social gatherings, however, will remain tougher in and around Seoul, where cases have been more frequent.

In other Covid-related news around the world:

  • An estimated 43,000 people in Britain were mistakenly informed that they had tested negative for the coronavirus after previously testing positive, the officials said in a statement on Friday. The government suspended operations at a private laboratory after an investigation revealed that thousands of people — most of them from southwestern England — had received false negatives on P.C.R. tests from Sept. 8 to Oct. 12, after previously testing positive on lateral flow devices.

  • New South Wales will become the first state in Australia to allow fully vaccinated residents to return to the country without quarantining, starting next month, the authorities announced on Friday. Tens of thousands of Australians have been stranded abroad because of caps on the numbers of weekly returnees, and people entering the country must quarantine for 14 days in a hotel at their own expense. New South Wales is the country’s most populous state, encompassing Sydney.

  • The authorities in pandemic-stricken Thailand, seeing to revive the country’s tourism, have reopened a cave where a dozen young soccer players and their coach were trapped for 18 days in 2018, becoming the focus of a tense rescue effort that captivated the world. The cave complex had been closed to tourists in April to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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U.S. loosens international travel restrictions by allowing 3 other vaccines

In a boon for Houston’s international travel, the U.S. will now accept both FDA and World Health Organization-approved vaccines for travelers entering the country. The decision was announced Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Reuters reported.

The expanded vaccine list comes after the Biden administration announced on Sept. 20 that the US would lift its 18-month old COVID air travel restrictions in November for 33 countries including Brazil, China, India and members of the European Union.

Instead, starting in November, almost all non-US citizen adult travelers, including those not from the formerly restricted countries, will be required to show proof of vaccination to enter the US. Over 1 million international travelers passed through Houston’s Bush and Hobby airports in 2019, though that number has plummeted during the pandemic.

NEW RULES: Biden administration is starting new COVID travel policies. Here’s what you need to know.

A CDC spokesperson on Friday told Reuters the US would accept six vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, along with AstraZeneca/Covishield, Sinopharm and Sinovac.

Together, these vaccines are used by over 1.5 billion people across Asia and Europe, as well as in Canada.

RELATED: CDC director says collective action is key to ending the pandemic. How are Houstonians doing?

China alone has fully vaccinated approximately 1 billion people, or about 80 percent of its population, largely with Sinopharm and Sinovac, while Indian officials in September announced the country had given at least one vaccine dose to half of its 1.4 billion people, the majority receiving Covishield. About 70 percent of adults in the European Union have been vaccinated, many with AstraZeneca.

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Covid News: Live Updates on the Virus, Vaccines and Mandates

Daily Covid Briefing

Oct. 9, 2021, 11:05 a.m. ET

Oct. 9, 2021, 11:05 a.m. ET

ImageA view of Chicago last winter. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Friday that city employees could avoid the vaccine mandate she issued in August by getting tested twice a week through the end of the year.
Credit…Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

Just a day after President Biden visited Chicago to plead for vaccine mandates, saying they were the only way to defeat the coronavirus, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday said public workers could opt out of the city’s mandate until the end of the year by getting regularly tested.

The mayor announced the mandate for Chicago workers in August. But the proposal was met with immediate pushback from employees and labor groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the Chicago Federation of Labor.

New reported doses administered by day

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | Note: Line shows a seven-day average. Data not updated on some weekends and holidays. Includes the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as of March 5. The C.D.C., in collaboration with the states, sometimes revises data or reports a single-day large increase in vaccinations from previous dates, which can cause an irregular pattern in the daily reported figures.

Now, workers who are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 15, including those who have sought medical or religious exemptions, must get tested twice a week, separated by three to four days, at their own time and expense, the mayor’s office said.

Employees who fail to report their vaccination status by the Oct. 15 deadline will be placed on unpaid leave.

The test-out option will remain in place until Dec. 31, after which employees must be fully vaccinated unless they have received a medical or religious exemption. It was unclear what the consequences will be for those who refuse to comply.

Cities and states around the country have introduced vaccine mandates for their workers, and some have been met with legal challenges.

After being delayed by the courts, a vaccine mandate for educators and staff in New York City public schools was cleared to proceed after a ruling by a federal appeals panel last week. Though it faced opposition, the mandate pushed tens of thousands of Department of Education employees to get their shots.

Municipal workers in Seattle and in Los Angeles are required to be fully inoculated against the virus by next week, though unlike Chicago’s policy, there is no test-out option. Both mandates allow for religious or medical accommodations.

Chicago had been negotiating with labor unions since the August announcement.

Credit…Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune, via Associated Press

While the Delta variant-driven surge is receding in much of the United States, it rages on in less-vaccinated states like North Dakota, to the point where the state’s governor and health professionals have asked people to avoid risky activities that could add to the burden on hospitals.

The plea to maximize capacity for the crush of Covid patient came last week from Gov. Doug Burgum and doctors and administrators from some of North Dakota’s largest hospitals. They asked the public to drive defensively, skip dangerous activities that could lead to injuries, regularly visiting primary care physicians and make sure all their vaccinations were up to date.

About this data

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data. Currently hospitalized is the most recent number of patients with Covid-19 reported by hospitals in the state for the four days prior. Dips and spikes could be due to inconsistent reporting by hospitals. Hospitalization numbers early in the pandemic are undercounts due to incomplete reporting by hospitals to the federal government.

“The pressure on hospitals and clinics in both our urban and rural areas is reaching critical levels, and we all need to do our part to avoid hospitalization and prevent further strain on these facilities and their staff as we work through this incredibly challenging time,” said Mr. Burgum, a Republican.

The problem has been compounded by health care worker shortages and a wave of patients who can no longer delay care for other conditions, said Dr. Joshua C. Ranum, the vice president of the North Dakota Medical Association.

North Dakota’s caseload — 81 cases per 100,000 residents — trails only those of Alaska and Montana, according to a New York Times database, a 25 percent increase over the past two weeks. And Covid-related hospitalizations are up more than a fifth in the past two weeks.

Nationally, the United States is averaging below 100,000 new daily cases for the first time since Aug. 4. The average of 97,933 cases is down 20 percent from two weeks ago. New daily deaths are down 14 percent, to an average of 1,770.

Covid caseloads remain high in North Dakota and Western states like Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, where vaccination rates are relatively low. Some areas have had to ration care and send patients to distant hospitals for treatment.

Just 45 percent of the North Dakota’s population is fully inoculated, according to federal data, compared with 56 percent nationally.

Mr. Burgum has asked North Dakotans to get vaccinated, but he has resisted mandating vaccines and threatened legal action after President Biden announced vaccination requirements last month that Mr. Biden said would affect 100 million workers.

About this data

Source: State and local health agencies. Daily cases are the number of new cases reported each day. The seven-day average is the average of a day and the previous six days of data.

In North Dakota, Dr. Ranum said most hospitals were being forced to get by with the staff members they had, sometimes training them to work in different parts of the hospital to fill gaps. Reinforcements from elsewhere are rare because demand for traveling nurses and other health workers is so high, he said.

Dr. Michael LeBeau, president of Sanford Health Bismarck, North Dakota’s second-largest hospital, said the facility’s staff was depleted and exhausted as it reckoned with overdue care amid the surge.

“We spent the better part of a year where we had a hard time keeping up with standard health maintenance, yearly physicals, the stuff that prevents hospitalization,” Dr. LeBeau said.

Credit…Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel, via Associated Press

The political battle in Florida over masks in schools escalated this week, as the state Board of Education voted to authorize sanctions on eight local school districts for not following instructions from Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration that make masks optional.

The eight districts, whose boards all voted to require masks in school buildings, could face cutbacks equal to their school board members’ salaries unless, according to the Tampa Bay Times, they show within 48 hours that they are in compliance with state orders. The districts are in Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade, Orange and Palm Beach Counties.

The measure was approved unanimously during a conference call meeting on Thursday by the State Board of Education, all of whose members are appointees by Republican governors. The vote came after superintendents from the eight districts argued their mask policies had been effective at curbing the spread of the virus.

After the vote, one of the superintendents, Alberto M. Carvalho of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, noted on Twitter there had been “no major outbreaks” in his district and that student cases had been declining after a spike in early September.

“We disagree with today’s State Board of Education’s recommendation and wholeheartedly believe that we are in compliance with law, reason, and science,” he said in a Twitter post.

But the state board said that the county school boards had “willingly and knowingly violated the rights of students and parents by denying them the option to make personal and private health care and educational decisions for their children.”

Masks in schools have become the center of a fiercely partisan debate in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states whose Republican governors oppose mask mandates as an infringement on personal liberties. In late July, Governor DeSantis, a possible Republican presidential candidate, signed an executive order directing state officials to ensure parents have the power to decide whether children wear masks in school.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all students, teachers and employees wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status. Most masks offer far more protection to others than to the person wearing them, dispersing the exhaled aerosols that carry the coronavirus in an infected person. So individual masking undermines the protection the masks offer.

President Biden, a Democrat, has openly criticized the Republican governors blocking local mask mandates, and the federal Department of Education has started investigating whether such policies in five states violate the civil rights of disabled students.

Lawsuits have also been filed in a number of states, including Florida, challenging bans on mask mandates. In late August, a federal judge said that Florida’s state constitution allowed school districts to impose strict mask mandates on students, handing Mr. DeSantis a defeat. The state asked an appellate court to reverse the ruling, which has been stayed temporarily pending a final decision.

On Thursday, the Florida school board maintained that a “parents’ bill of rights” enacted by state lawmakers earlier this year gave parents the sole right to decide if their children should wear masks. The board’s statement said that the law requires districts and schools to “protect parents’ right to make health care decisions such as masking of their children in relation to Covid-19.”

“Every school board member and every school superintendent has a duty to comply with the law, whether they agree with it or not,” the chairman of the state board, Tom Grady, said in the statement.

Credit…Thalia Juarez for The New York Times

Dozens of people gathered at the Word of Life International Church in the South Bronx in New York City on a recent Saturday for its weekly food bank, but the pastor was also interested in discussing a different subject.

He said he wanted everyone there — mostly Black residents, including seniors and mothers with small children — to know that Covid vaccines were easy to find. More important, the pastor, the Rev. John S. Udo-Okon, wanted them to know that the vaccines would not harm them.

More than 80 percent of adults in New York City have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, but there are significant racial disparities in the vaccination rate.

Only 55 percent of Black adults have received at least one vaccine dose, compared with 92 percent of Asian Americans, 75 percent of Hispanic adults and 62 percent of white residents, according to data published by the city government. Community leaders attribute that low vaccination rate among Black New Yorkers to a combination of factors, primarily a history of racism in the medical system and a subsequent distrust of authorities.

To address the gap, health officials and some Black churches have sought to use the power of the pulpit to vouch for the safety of vaccines and to push back against misinformation. They have also hosted vaccination events in church halls or from mobile vans parked outside of churches after Sunday services.

“These cultural institutions are a safe space to have discussions — you go to your faith leader and they’ll answer questions,” said Dr. Torian Easterling, the first deputy commissioner and chief equity officer at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Credit…Ore Huiying for The New York Times

Singapore is adding the United States and seven other countries to its list of places where two-way travel for fully vaccinated people can occur without needing to quarantine, officials announced on Saturday, as the Southeast Asian country begins to cautiously reopen.

“We are charting a course for the new normal, toward living with Covid-19,” S. Iswaran, the transportation minister for Singapore, said in a post on Facebook. “This is how we must move forward to protect both our lives and livelihoods, to learn to live with the virus, and to journey toward a Covid-resilient nation.”

In addition to the United States, the new countries in this arrangement are Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Britain, according to Mr. Iswaran. Singapore already announced similar arrangements with South Korea, Brunei and Germany.

Under the plan, known as Vaccinated Travel Lanes, fully vaccinated people traveling between Singapore and those countries will subject only to PCR tests for the coronavirus instead of quarantining, according to the transportation ministry. Those travelers will also have no restrictions on their purpose of travel and will not be required to have a controlled itinerary or sponsorship, the ministry said.

The expanded travel plan will start on Tuesday, according to the ministry.

Email messages to the ministry seeking comment were not immediately returned.

The Vaccinated Travel Lanes are one of the biggest reopening steps being taken by Singapore, a major economic and transportation hub, after early successes in thwarting the coronavirus and then a sharp setback in controlling its spread.

Singapore was widely considered a success story in its initial handling of the pandemic, closing its borders, testing and tracing aggressively, and ordering vaccines early.

Singapore has now fully inoculated 83 percent of its population, and a top politician told the public in August that an 80 percent vaccination rate was the criterion for a phased reopening.

But in September, with cases doubling every eight to 10 days, the government reinstated restrictions on gatherings. The United States said its citizens should reconsider travel to the country, emergency departments in several Singapore hospitals were crowded, and people were once again told to work from home.

The country’s experience has become a sobering case study for other nations pursuing reopening strategies without having had to deal with large outbreaks in the pandemic. For Singapore residents, there were nagging questions about what it would take to reopen if vaccines were not enough.

For many, the repeated tweaks to the restrictions have taken a toll. The number of suicides in 2020 was the highest since 2012, a trend that some mental health experts have attributed to the pandemic.

Credit…Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

With the Nets star Kyrie Irving potentially set to lose more than $380,000 for missing a preseason game Friday night, the N.B.A. players’ association pushed back on the league’s plan to dock the pay of unvaccinated players for any games they miss this season because of local coronavirus ordinances.

Irving, a union vice president, has not spoken publicly about his vaccination status, instead asking for privacy. New York requires most teens and adults to have at least one vaccination shot to enter facilities such as sports arenas, and Irving has not practiced with the Nets in Brooklyn. The team listed him as “ineligible to play” in its injury report before Friday’s preseason home opener against the Milwaukee Bucks at Barclays Center.

For Irving, the $380,000 represents about 1 percent of his base pay for the 2021-22 season. A disagreement between the league and the players’ union over lost pay hinges on a section of the collective bargaining agreement that allows the league to discipline players who, “without proper and reasonable cause or excuse,” fail to fulfill their contractual obligations.

Mike Bass, a league spokesman, said last week that “any player who elects not to comply with local vaccination mandates will not be paid for games that he misses.”

The union has rejected instituting a leaguewide vaccine mandate.

Irving’s indefinite absence from home games — and from practices — has created a predicament for the Nets, a team with championship aspirations that must weigh whether having him around only half the time is worth it. His teammates have said they support him.

Steve Nash, the Nets’ coach, said the team would not move its practices to a location outside of New York to accommodate Irving. The Nets, who have not said publicly whether Irving is vaccinated, held their training camp in San Diego.

“No, this is our home,” Nash said. “This is where we’re going to practice, and we have almost a whole group. So that’s a positive, and we’re just working at getting better every day and focusing on the things we can control.”

Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, where the Knicks play, require all employees and guests 12 and older to show proof of having received at least one vaccine dose, to comply with a city mandate, unless they have a religious or medical exemption. San Francisco has a similar requirement that applies to Chase Center, where the Golden State Warriors play. The mandates in both cities mean that the players from the Knicks, Nets and Golden State cannot play in their teams’ 41 home games without being vaccinated.

In Case You Missed It

Credit…Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Across the United States, many families with young children have been anxiously awaiting a vaccine for those under 12 years old.

This week, they moved one step closer, as Pfizer and BioNTech asked federal regulators to authorize emergency use of their shot, which has been proven to be safe and highly effective for young children, for those aged 5 to 11.

If approved, the vaccine could help protect some 28 million more people in the United States. Federal regulators received another major request this week from Johnson & Johnson as the company sought authorization for a booster shot for adults. It was the last of the three Covid vaccine manufacturers whose shots are authorized for U.S. use to make such a request.

Pfizer’s announcement came on Thursday, the same day that President Biden made an appeal to private employers to adopt vaccine mandates, underscoring the administration’s efforts to reach the tens of millions of Americans who remain unvaccinated. In his speech, Mr. Biden said that mandates were the only way to defeat the virus.

Here’s what else happened this week:

  • A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can nearly triple the chances of a rare heart condition in young men, though the risk remained extremely low. Experts have thus far said that the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh the risk of getting the condition, called myocarditis.

  • After months of decline, the number of nursing home deaths rose sharply from July to August as the Delta variant spread across the country, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found.

  • The Covax vaccine program backed by the United Nations will fail to meet its target for delivering doses to Latin America and the Caribbean this year, in part because wealthy countries that pay more for the shots are buying up most of the supply, according to the World Health Organization.

  • The United States will spend $1 billion to quadruple the availability of at-home rapid coronavirus tests by the end of the year, White House officials said. Two hundred million rapid tests are soon expected to be available to Americans each month.

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Russians flock to Serbia for Western-made COVID-19 vaccines

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — When Russian regulators approved the country’s own coronavirus vaccine, it was a moment of national pride, and the Pavlov family was among those who rushed to take the injection. But international health authorities have not yet given their blessing to the Sputnik V shot.

So when the family from Rostov-on-Don wanted to visit the West, they looked for a vaccine that would allow them to travel freely — a quest that brought them to Serbia, where hundreds of Russian citizens have flocked in recent weeks to receive Western-approved COVID-19 shots.

Serbia, which is not a member of the European Union, is a convenient choice for vaccine-seeking Russians because they can enter the allied Balkan nation without visas and because it offers a wide choice of Western-made shots. Organized tours for Russians have soared, and they can be spotted in the capital, Belgrade, at hotels, restaurants, bars and vaccination clinics.

“We took the Pfizer vaccine because we want to travel around the world,” Nadezhda Pavlova, 54, said after receiving the vaccine last weekend at a sprawling Belgrade vaccination center.

Her husband, Vitaly Pavlov, 55, said he wanted “the whole world to be open to us rather than just a few countries.”

Vaccination tour packages for Russians seeking shots endorsed by the World Health Organization appeared on the market in mid-September, according to Russia’s Association of Tour Operators.

Maya Lomidze, the group’s executive director, said prices start at $300 to $700, depending on what’s included.

Lauded by Russian President Vladimir Putin as world’s first registered COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V emerged in August 2020 and has been approved in some 70 countries, including Serbia. But the WHO has said global approval is still under review after citing issues at a production plant a few months ago.

On Friday, a top World Health Organization official said legal issues holding up the review of Sputnik V were “about to be sorted out,” a step that could relaunch the process toward emergency use authorization.

Other hurdles remain for the Russian application, including a lack of full scientific information and inspections of manufacturing sites, said Dr. Mariangela Simao, a WHO assistant director-general.

Apart from the WHO, Sputnik V is also still awaiting approval from the European Medicines Agency before all travel limitations can be lifted for people vaccinated with the Russian formula.

The long wait has frustrated many Russians, so when the WHO announced yet another delay in September, they started looking for solutions elsewhere.

“People don’t want to wait; people need to be able to get into Europe for various personal reasons,” explained Anna Filatovskaya, Russky Express tour agency spokeswoman in Moscow. “Some have relatives. Some have business, some study, some work. Some simply want to go to Europe because they miss it.”

Serbia, a fellow-Orthodox Christian and Slavic nation, offers the Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Chinese Sinopharm shots. By popular demand, Russian tourist agencies are now also offering tours to Croatia, where tourists can receive the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, without the need to return for a second dose.

“For Serbia, the demand has been growing like an avalanche,” Filatovskaya said. “It’s as if all our company is doing these days is selling tours for Serbia.”

The Balkan nation introduced vaccination for foreigners in August, when the vaccination drive inside the country slowed after reaching around 50% of the adult population. Official Serbian government data shows that nearly 160,000 foreign citizens so far have been vaccinated in the country, but it is unclear how many are Russians.

In Russia, the country’s vaccination rate has been low. By this week, almost 33% of Russia’s 146 million people have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, and 29% were fully vaccinated. Apart from Sputnik V and a one-dose version known as Sputnik Light, Russia has also used two other domestically designed vaccines that have not been internationally approved.

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko recently said administrative issues were among the main holdups in the WHO’s review process.

Judy Twigg, a political science professor specializing in global health at Virginia Commonwealth University, expects Sputnik V to be approved eventually, but “maybe not by the end of this year.”

“The WHO has said that it needs more data, and it needs to go back and inspect some production lines where it saw issues early on. Those re-inspections are a multiweek process, with good reason. It’s not something that they just gloss over lightly.”

Amid low vaccination rates and reluctance by the authorities to reimpose restrictive measures, both Russia and Serbia have seen COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations reach record levels in the past weeks.

The daily coronavirus death toll in Russia topped 900 for a second straight day on Thursday — a day after reaching a record 929. In Serbia, the daily death toll of 50 people is the highest in months in the country of 7 million that so far has confirmed nearly 1 million cases of infection.

Pavlova said the “double protection” offered by the Pfizer booster shots would allow the family “to not only travel around the world, but also to see our loved ones without fear.”

Since the vaccine tours exploded in popularity about a month ago, they have provided welcome business for Serbian tour operators devastated by the pandemic in an already weak economy. The owner of BTS Kompas travel agency in Belgrade, Predrag Tesic, said they are booked well in advance.

“It started modestly at first, but day by day numbers have grown nicely,” Tesic said.

He explained that his agency organizes everything, from airport transport to accommodations and translation and other help at vaccination points. When they return for another dose in three weeks, the Russian guests also are offered brief tours to some of popular sites in Serbia.

Back in Russia, some Moscow residents said they understood why many of their fellow Russians travel abroad for vaccines. But Tatiana Novikova said homegrown vaccines remain her choice.

“I trust ours more, to be honest,” she said.


Associated Press writers Dusan Stojanovic and Ivana Bzganovic in Belgrade, Serbia, and Daria Litvinova and Daniel Kozin reported from Moscow.


Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at

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Vaccines, Boosters and Travel Restrictions: Covid News Live Updates

ImageRosie Manzo, left, watching as her brother, Esteban, 15, got the Pfizer vaccine at a mobile clinic in Santa Ana, Calif., in August.
Credit…Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

A surge driven by the Delta variant is receding in the United States, but officials and experts say that increased transmission during the coming colder months remains a threat and that steady rates of vaccination are key to keeping the coronavirus at bay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that about 56 percent of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated. Providers are administering an average of about 949,000 doses per day, including first, second and additional doses, far below the April peak but higher than the recent Sept. 28 low point of about 625,000, according to a New York Times database.

Surveys from the Kaiser Family Foundation show that vaccine support has been rising out of fear of the Delta variant: Almost 40 percent of newly inoculated respondents said they had sought the vaccines because of the rise in cases, and more than a third said they had become alarmed by overcrowding in local hospitals and rising death rates.

The number of people eligible for vaccinations could also soon increase substantially: Pfizer and BioNTech asked federal regulators on Thursday to authorize emergency use of their coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, a move that could help protect more than 28 million people in the United States.

The companies say they are submitting data supporting the change to the Food and Drug Administration. The agency has promised to move quickly on the request and has tentatively scheduled a meeting on Oct. 26 to consider it. An F.D.A. ruling is expected as early as the end of this month.

Rupali Limaye, a behavior scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who studies vaccine hesitancy, said that parents’ getting their children aged 5 to 11 vaccinated would be a “huge game changer” because they represent a large proportion of population.

Vaccine mandates have also been taking effect recently, with federal workers and contractors, teachers, health care providers and others compelled to get immunized or risk losing their jobs. Such a requirement for New York teachers spurred thousands of last-minute vaccinations. Tyson Foods reported a 91 percent vaccination rate ahead of a November deadline, compared with less than half before its mandate was announced in August.

President Biden appealed on Thursday for more companies to mandate Covid vaccinations for employees, asking them to take initiative because an effort that he announced last month to require 80 million American workers to get the shot undergoes a rule-making process and may not go into effect for weeks.

A report released by the White House on Thursday sought to show how vaccine mandates had helped persuade more people to receive their shots: Seventy-eight percent of eligible adults have had at least a first dose.

As the country nears colder temperatures that will push many indoors, Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Stanford, said that the next few months would be critical, but that the combination of increased vaccinations and natural immunity from infections could prevent another catastrophic wave like the one that struck last year.

“Most of us don’t think we’re going to see the terrible surge we saw last winter,” she said. “That was horrific. I hope we never have to live through something like that again.”

Credit…Peter Nicholls/Reuters

England has reduced to just seven the number of “red list” countries that it considers the highest coronavirus risk and from which it requires travelers to quarantine in government-designated hotels upon arrival.

The change, announced on Thursday, removes 47 countries and territories from the list, including Afghanistan, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. Taking effect on Monday at 4 a.m. local time, it lifts a set of restrictions that have separated family members and thwarted business travel and vacations.

Residents and officials in restricted countries have in recent months called for the measures to be lifted as their infection numbers have fallen and vaccinations have risen. One online petition asking that Turkey be removed from the list gained nearly 49,000 signatures.

“We’re making it easier for families and loved ones to reunite, by significantly cutting the number of destinations on the red list, thanks in part to the increased vaccination efforts around the globe,” Grant Shapps, Britain’s transportation secretary, said in a statement.

The countries remaining on the list are all in Latin America or the Caribbean: Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

Fully vaccinated people arriving from countries not on the red list will no longer be required to take a coronavirus test before traveling to England, although they must still pay for a test on the second day after their arrival.

Unvaccinated people traveling from these destinations will still have to take a pre-departure test, plus tests on their second and eighth days after arriving, and will still be required to isolate for 10 days.

The changes followed an announcement this week that England’s three-tiered traffic light-inspired system was being reduced to a single “red list.” Testing and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals were also eased.

Sajid Javid, Britain’s health secretary, cited what he called the country’s “phenomenal progress” in vaccination. Seventy-three percent of people in Britain have received a single dose, and 67 percent are fully vaccinated, according to figures collated by Our World in Data.

Credit…Joe White/Reuters

Tesla will move its headquarters from California to Austin, Texas, the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said on Thursday, a move that makes good on a threat that he issued more than a year ago when he was frustrated by coronavirus lockdown orders that forced Tesla to pause production at its factory in Fremont, Calif.

Mr. Musk was an outspoken early critic of pandemic restrictions, calling them “fascist” and predicting in March 2020 that there would be almost no new cases of virus infections by the end of April. In December, he said he had moved himself to Texas to be near the company’s new factory.

His other company, SpaceX, launches rockets from the state.

“There’s a limit to how big you can scale in the Bay Area,” Mr. Musk said at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday, adding that high housing prices there translated to long commutes for some employees.

The company’s Texas factory, which is near Austin and will manufacture Tesla’s Cybertruck, is minutes from downtown and from an airport, he said.

Tesla is one of several California companies to say they were moving to Texas in recent months. Hewlett Packard Enterprise said in December that it was moving to the Houston area, and Charles Schwab has moved to a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth.

Tesla is on track to sell about a million cars this year and is planning a major expansion. In addition to the Austin factory, Tesla is building one near Berlin. Its headquarters have been in Palo Alto for more than a decade.

Credit…Ore Huiying for The New York Times

Singapore will soon open its borders to fully vaccinated people arriving from the United States and South Korea without those travelers needing to quarantine, officials said on Thursday, as the country begins to cautiously reopen.

Under the plan, known as Vaccinated Travel Lanes, fully vaccinated people traveling between Singapore and those countries will subject only to Covid-19 PCR tests instead of quarantining, according to the transportation ministry. Those travelers will also have no restrictions on their purpose of travel and will not be required to have a controlled itinerary or sponsorship, the ministry said.

The change regarding South Korea takes effect on Nov. 15, according to the ministry. The plan with the United States will begin before the end of the year, The Straits Times reported, citing a speech by Gan Kim Yong, Singapore’s trade minister, in Washington on Thursday.

Email messages to the ministry seeking comment were not immediately returned on Friday.

The Vaccinated Travel Lanes are one of the biggest reopening steps being taken by Singapore, a major economic and transportation hub, after early successes in thwarting the coronavirus and then a sharp setback in controlling its spread.

Singapore was widely considered a success story in its initial handling of the pandemic, closing its borders, testing and tracing aggressively, and ordering vaccines early.

Singapore has now fully inoculated 83 percent of its population, and a top politician told the public in August that an 80 percent vaccination rate was the criterion for a phased reopening.

But in September, with cases doubling every eight to 10 days, the government reinstated restrictions on gatherings. The United States said its citizens should reconsider travel to the country, emergency departments in several Singapore hospitals were crowded, and people were once again told to work from home.

The country’s experience has become a sobering case study for other nations pursuing reopening strategies without having had to deal with large outbreaks in the pandemic. For Singapore residents, there were nagging questions about what it would take to reopen if vaccines were not enough.

For many, the repeated tweaks to the restrictions have taken a toll. The number of suicides in 2020 was the highest since 2012, a trend that some mental health experts have attributed to the pandemic.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

San Francisco plans to ease face-mask requirements in limited settings, health officials said on Thursday. The change, set to take effect on Oct. 15, is dependent on coronavirus cases and hospitalization rates remaining stable or declining.

In settings such as offices, gyms, fitness centers, religious gatherings and college classes, people will be permitted to remove their mask if everyone present is vaccinated and their status has been verified. The new rule applies only to gatherings that do not exceed 100 people.

The employer or host is also required to ensure proper ventilation, verify that there have been no recent Covid-19 outbreaks and make sure that no children under 12 are present, among other safety measures.

California is among the states with the lowest number of newly reported coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, according to a New York Times database. In San Francisco County, 74 percent of residents age 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

“I’m excited that we’re once again at a place where we can begin easing the mask requirements, which is the direct result of the fact that we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, our cases have fallen, and our residents have done their part to keep themselves and those around them safe,” said Mayor London Breed.

Ms. Breed called the eased restrictions “yet another milestone in our recovery” and said that “the City feels like it is coming alive again” on Twitter.

Indoor mask mandates remain in place for most other public settings, including retail stores and other common areas like building elevators, lobbies and restrooms, and masks continue to be required at bars and restaurants except when patrons are eating or drinking.

Proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test has been required to go indoors at bars, restaurants, clubs, gyms and large indoor events in San Francisco since late August.

“Vaccines continue to be our path out of the pandemic, but masks have blunted the Delta-driven surge and protected our vital hospital capacity, while allowing businesses to remain open and children to return to school,” said Dr. Susan Philip, the city and county’s health officer.

Credit…Tristan Spinski for The New York Times

For many college students, the pandemic’s arrival did more than disrupt their studies, threaten their health and shut down campus life. It also closed off the usual paths that lead from the classroom to jobs after graduation. Campus recruiting visits were abandoned, and the coronavirus-induced recession made companies pull back from hiring.

But this year seniors and recent graduates are in great demand as white-collar employers staff up, with some job-seekers receiving multiple offers.

The demand for college students at this stage of the pandemic — when overall U.S. employment remains more than five million jobs below the level in early 2020 — underscores the longstanding economic premium for people with a college education over holders of just a high school diploma.

The unemployment rate for all workers with a college degree stood at 2.8 percent in August, compared with 6 percent for high school graduates with no college.

What’s more, the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has been a one-two punch for those lacking a college degree, hitting the sectors they depend on the most, like restaurants and bars, hotels and retail businesses.

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Covid Live News: Updates on Virus Variants, Vaccines and Mandates

Daily Covid Briefing

Oct. 2, 2021, 11:10 a.m. ET

Oct. 2, 2021, 11:10 a.m. ET

ImageThe new findings show that the virus is becoming more formidable and highlight the need for better masks in some situations.
Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

Newer variants of the coronavirus like Alpha and Delta are highly contagious, infecting far more people than the original virus. Two new studies offer a possible explanation: The virus is evolving to spread more efficiently through air.

The realization that the coronavirus is airborne indoors transformed efforts to contain the pandemic last year, igniting fiery debates about masks, social distancing and ventilation in public spaces.

Most researchers now agree that the coronavirus is mostly transmitted through large droplets that quickly sink to the floor and through much smaller ones, called aerosols, that can float over longer distances indoors and settle directly into the lungs, where the virus is most harmful.

The new studies don’t fundamentally change that view. But the findings signal the need for better masks in some situations, and indicate that the virus is changing in ways that make it more formidable.

“This is not an Armageddon scenario,” said Vincent Munster, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who led one of the new studies. “It is like a modification of the virus to more efficient transmission, which is something I think we all kind of expected, and we now see it happening in real time.”

Dr. Munster’s team showed that small aerosols traveled much longer distances than larger droplets and the Alpha variant — or B.1.1.7, first identified in Britain — was much more likely to cause new infections via aerosol transmission. The second study found that people infected with Alpha exhaled about 43 times more virus into tiny aerosols than those infected with older variants.

The studies compared Alpha with the original virus or other older variants. The results may also explain why the Delta variant is so contagious — and why it displaced all other versions of the virus.

“It really indicates that the virus is evolving to become more efficient at transmitting through the air,” said Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne viruses at Virginia Tech who was not involved in either study. “I wouldn’t be surprised if, with Delta, that factor were even higher.”

The tools at our disposal all still work well to halt the spread. Even loosefitting cloth and surgical masks block about half of the fine aerosols containing virus, according to the study of people infected with variants, published this month in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Still, at least in some crowded spaces, people may want to consider switching to more protective masks, said Don Milton, an aerosol expert at the University of Maryland who led the research.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Deaths in the United States from the coronavirus surpassed 700,000 on Friday, according to a New York Times database, a milestone that few experts had anticipated months ago when vaccines became widely available to the American public.

An overwhelming majority of Americans who have died in recent months, a period in which the country has offered broad access to shots, were unvaccinated. The United States has had one of the highest recent death rates of any country with an ample supply of vaccines.

The new and alarming surge of deaths this summer means that the pandemic has become the deadliest in American history, overtaking the toll from the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919, which killed about 675,000 people.

The recent virus deaths are distinct from those in previous chapters of the pandemic, an analysis by The New York Times shows. People who died in the last three and a half months were concentrated in the South, a region that has lagged in vaccinations; many of the deaths were reported in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. And those who died were younger: In August, every age group under 55 had its highest death toll of the pandemic.

The United States government has not closely tracked the vaccination status of everyone who has been infected with the virus, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has so far identified 2,900 people who were vaccinated among the 100,000 who died of Covid since mid-June.

Vaccines have been proven highly effective in preventing severe illness and death, and a study from the C.D.C. that was published in September found that after Delta became the dominant variant, unvaccinated people were more than 10 times as likely to die of the virus as the vaccinated were. The study, which spanned from April to mid-July, used data from 10 states, New York City, Los Angeles County and King County, Wash., which includes Seattle.

Deaths per 100,000 residents since June 16

Deaths per 100,000 residents since June 16

Deaths per 100,000 residents since June 16

Deaths per 100,000 residents since June 16

The pace of death has quickened, then slowed, then quickened again over the past 18 months as the virus has rippled across America in waves.

The most recent 100,000 deaths occurred over more than three months, a considerably slower pace than when the pandemic reached its peak last winter. During that earlier surge, just 34 days elapsed between the nation’s 400,000th and 500,000th death.

The outsize impact on the South propelled Mississippi ahead of New York and New Jersey for the most coronavirus deaths relative to population throughout the pandemic. Before the Delta surge, the worst-hit states had been mostly Northeastern states that suffered dire early outbreaks, as well as Arizona. But Louisiana and Alabama have become two of the five states with the highest proportion of Covid deaths.

Credit…Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday allowed New York City to require adults working in its public schools to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Justice Sotomayor, who oversees the federal appeals court in New York, turned down a request for emergency relief shortly before the mandate became effective on Friday evening. She acted on her own, without referring the application to the full Supreme Court, asking city officials for a response or providing reasoning. All of those moves were indications that the application was not on solid legal footing.

The teachers and school staff challenging the mandate argued that they were being treated differently from other city workers. The mandate, their lawyers told Justice Sotomayor, “will force thousands of unvaccinated public-school employees to lose their jobs — while other municipal employees, including those who have significant contact with children, are allowed to opt-out of the vaccine mandate through weekly Covid-19 testing.”

The challengers added that the mandate violated what they called their “fundamental right to pursue an occupation.”

In refusing to block the mandate, Judge Brian M. Cogan of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn wrote in an earlier ruling that it was “a rational policy decision surrounding how best to protect children during a global pandemic.”

He added that the challengers could seek employment elsewhere.

Judge Cogan wrote that city officials had made a defensible policy decision given the public health crisis.

“Public school students have already endured two school years that were mired by disruption, leaving many students far behind,” he wrote. “Minimizing interruption by providing a safe environment for these students is also a legitimate and important governmental purpose. Although plaintiffs argue that masks and testing adequately can advance this objective, it is not irrational for defendants to conclude the vaccine mandate better enhances this purpose.”

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

American Airlines told employees on Friday that it would require all U.S.-based employees and some international crew members to be vaccinated.

In a letter to employees signed by the company’s chief executive and presidents, American said the move was necessary because of its status as a government contractor. Last month, President Biden announced that employees of government contractors would be required to be vaccinated, with only limited exceptions.

The airline’s letter gave no timetable, but the White House has said the deadline for employees of current contractors to be vaccinated is Dec. 8.

“While we are still working through the details of the federal requirements, it is clear that team members who choose to remain unvaccinated will not be able to work at American Airlines,” the letter said.

Employees who have medical or religious reasons to decline the vaccine could apply for an accommodation, the letter said. The letter was reported earlier by Reuters.

Separately, Alaska Airlines and JetBlue said on Friday that they, too, would mandate the vaccine for employees, also citing the requirement for federal contractors. In a statement, Alaska Airlines said it would extend to Dec. 1 a $200 incentive for employees who upload proof of full vaccination.

United Airlines issued a vaccine mandate for employees in August, but no other major carrier followed suit at the time. The company said this week that several hundred employees out of about 67,000 were at risk of being laid off for declining the vaccine, though the number had fallen below 250 by Friday.

Credit…Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune, via Associate Press

The majority of prisoners in Minnesota have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, but corrections employees lag significantly behind.

Paul Schnell, state corrections commissioner, told Minnesota Public Radio News that he’s “deeply concerned” about the department’s vaccination rates.

The immunization rate for employees at the Minnesota Department of Corrections is just over 65 percent. But that number is lower in some facilities. Less than 60 percent of staff at St. Cloud have been inoculated. It’s fewer than half at Rush City, north of Minneapolis.

In comparison, 80 percent of inmates have been fully vaccinated as of this week.

Minnesota’s disparity is in line with much of the country. Data compiled by the Covid Behind Bars Project at the University of California, Los Angeles Law shows that prison inmates are more vaccinated than corrections staff in at least 13 states.

The project includes data publicly reported by state and federal correctional agencies about the administration of vaccines to incarcerated people and staff in their facilities, but not every state publicly reports those numbers.

Over the course of the pandemic, prison inmates have been more than three times as likely as other Americans to become infected with the virus, according to a New York Times analysis of data in May. The virus has killed prisoners at higher rates than the general population, the data shows, with at least 2,700 dying in custody.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified prisoners as a group vulnerable to outbreaks and prioritized inmates early in the vaccine rollout, but state-set eligibility lists meant access varied widely. Now that shots are readily available for both inmates and staff, vaccine hesitancy from employees has spurred state mandates.

This week, Massachusetts prison guards filed a lawsuit to postpone Gov. Charlie Baker’s mandate requiring all state workers to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 17 or risk being fired. A federal judge on Monday ordered that all correctional officers and staff entering California’s prisons must be vaccinated.

Despite a new mandate requiring all Minnesota state employees working in the office or on site to be vaccinated or submit to weekly coronavirus testing, Mr. Schnell said that his department is testing about 1,400 unvaccinated staff members on a weekly basis.

Nicholas Kimball, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, said they don’t think either vaccination rate is high enough.

“Nothing happens inside a prison without healthy, effective security staff,” said Mr. Kimball in an email. “So we have to keep people healthy and do everything possible to reduce their own risk of illness, and the risk they could spread Covid-19 to other staff or people who are incarcerated.”


Credit…Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

A survey found that more parents were willing to vaccinate their children for the coronavirus in mid-September than were willing to do so in July, a shift that coincided with schools reopening in the middle of a wave of hospitalizations and deaths caused by the highly contagious Delta variant.

The latest monthly survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation also found that about one in four U.S. parents reported that a child of theirs had to quarantine at home because of a possible exposure to Covid-19 since the beginning of the school year. That was even as two-thirds of parents said they felt that their school was taking appropriate measures to contain spread.

The Pfizer vaccine, already in use for older children and adults, was authorized in mid-May for children age 12 to 15, and the report suggests that parents of children in that age group and older are slowly becoming more comfortable with it. Pfizer and BioNTech announced on Tuesday that they had submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration indicating that their vaccine is safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11.

According to federal data, 57 percent of children ages 12 to 17 have received at least one dose of the vaccines. And the survey found that parents of children ages 5 to 11 increasingly report favoring the vaccine as well. Thirty-four percent of those parents said they would have their children vaccinated as soon as possible, up from 26 percent in July.

Another survey about vaccine attitudes released on Tuesday, also conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, showed that fear of the Delta variant was the leading reason that people decided to get vaccinated this summer and why most said they would get boosters when eligible.

Here’s what else happened this week:

  • President Biden received a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot on Monday, and he urged more Americans to get their first vaccine doses. “Let me be clear,” Mr. Biden said. “Boosters are important. But the most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated. The vast majority of Americans are doing the right thing.”

  • The Pan American Health Organization has struck a deal with the Chinese manufacturer Sinovac to buy millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as part of an effort to make more shots available in a region where access has been highly unequal. The agency is negotiating with two other manufacturers and expecting to announce new deals soon, it said on Wednesday.

  • YouTube said it was banning the accounts of prominent anti-vaccine activists as part of an effort to remove all content that falsely claims that approved vaccines are dangerous. In a blog post, the company said it would remove from its platform videos claiming that vaccines do not reduce rates of transmission or contraction of disease, and content that includes misinformation on the makeup of the vaccines. Among the prominent anti-vaccination activists whose accounts were blocked are Joseph Mercola, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Erin Elizabeth and Sherri Tenpenny.

  • Australia will moved up its plan to ease travel restrictions into and out of the country in November, the second time in 10 days the country accelerated its easing of restrictions.

  • Vietnam, the second-biggest supplier of apparel and footwear to the United States after China, is grappling with a huge case surge driven by the Delta variant. With the holiday season approaching, many American retailers are anticipating delays and shortages of goods, along with higher prices tied to labor and already skyrocketing shipping costs.

Credit…John Moore/Getty Images

Merck on Friday announced that its new pill to treat Covid-19 reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by about 50 percent. Merck plans to seek emergency authorization for the antiviral pills to be used in the United States.

Here’s what to know.

Who will get the pills?

The pills are meant for people who are sick with Covid but are not in the hospital. Merck’s Phase 3 clinical trial enrolled only people considered high risk, such as older people or those with medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease. Initially, the drug might only be available for those people, but experts expect it to eventually become more widely available.

The pills are designed to be taken as soon as possible once a person shows symptoms of having Covid — a time when the virus is replicating rapidly and the immune system has not yet mounted a defense. In Merck’s trial, volunteers had to have shown symptoms within the past five days, and some researchers think the pills must be taken even earlier to be most effective.

When will the pills become available?

Merck said on Friday that it plans to seek emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration as soon as possible. Regulators could then authorize the drug before the end of this year, if all goes well.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus, said at a White House briefing on Friday that he could not give a specific timeline for approval.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.

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Sputnik V and other banned travel vaccines

Since November, people vaccinated with the Russian Sputnik V biologic will not be allowed to enter the United States, despite last week’s announcement that the doors were opened to all foreign travelers vaccinated against the coronavirus, easing restrictions for the first time since the pandemic began. 


This new rule excludes many people who are considered fully immunized, including millions who have received the two corresponding doses of the Russian vaccine.


Thousands of Russians, Turks, Arabs and Latin Americans from Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Venezuela could be directly affected, as this is one of the most widely applied vaccines in their countries. 


In 2019 only 300.000 Russians visited the United States, according to the U.S. Travel Association.


“This is a big problem for Russian travelers and for people from other countries who have received Sputnik V”, said Judyth Twigg, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who tracks public health in Russia.


The Russian Direct Investment Fund, which was the fund behind Sputnik V, said in a statement that the vaccine “not only has been approved in 70 countries where more than 4 billion people live, or more than half of the world’s population, but its efficacy and safety have been confirmed both during clinical trials and throughout its real-world use in several countries”.


Unlike other countries, the United States had no general restrictions on travel from Russia prior to this announcement, meaning that all travelers from the country who tested negative for coronavirus could enter, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. 

The Sinovac problem

The Russian vaccine is not the only one with bans on entry to other countries. Sinovac, the Chinese-designed biologic, has bans in some European Union countries, despite being endorsed by WHO from the start of its commercialization.  


To this day, the vaccines endorsed for access to some of the 27 countries of the European bloc and to Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein are those of Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 


It is not mandatory, but individuals with vaccines used in the EU (Sputnik V in Hungary) or approved by the WHO (SINOVAC and SINOPHARM) can be accepted. 

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U.S. vaccination requirement for air passengers worries Canadians with mixed vaccines

Canadian travellers have been able to fly freely to the United States since the start of the pandemic, but new U.S. travel rules announced Monday have some Canadians with two different COVID-19 vaccine doses worried they may soon be barred from entry. 

Starting in early November, the U.S. will require foreign air passengers entering the country to be fully vaccinated. The problem is, the U.S. has yet to approve mixing COVID-19 vaccines.

“I’m really worried about this U.S. policy,” said Cathy Hiuser of Ancaster, Ont., who has one dose of COVIDSHIELD (a brand of AstraZeneca) and one dose of Pfizer. She has booked a trip to Maui, departing Nov. 7.

“I don’t even know if I’ll be able to go across the border,” she said. “It’s a problem.”

At the same time as the U.S. introduces its vaccine requirement, the country will lift its travel ban on air passengers entering from a list of dozens of red-flagged countries.

“We’ll be putting in place strict protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from passengers flying internationally into the United States,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday. 

Millions of Canadians received mixed COVID-19 vaccine doses after Canada updated its vaccine guidelines in June. (Chris Glover/CBC)

CBC News asked the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) if the millions of Canadians with mixed vaccines will still be allowed to fly to the country when the vaccine requirement kicks in. The CDC said it’s in the “regulatory process” phase in determining which vaccines will be accepted. 

The agency also laid out its current policy: it considers people fully vaccinated when they have all recommended doses of the same COVID-19 vaccine, such as Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca.

“At present CDC does not recognize mixed vaccines,” said spokesperson Kristen Nordlund.

But there are exceptions to the rule. The CDC says on its website that mixed doses of the two mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are acceptable in “exceptional situations,” such as when the vaccine used for the first dose was no longer available.

However, a combination of AstraZeneca and an mRNA vaccine won’t meet the bar, a position adopted by cruise ships departing from U.S. ports.

“Guests whose two-shot regimen consists of 1 mRNA dose (Pfizer or Moderna) with 1 AstraZeneca dose will not be considered vaccinated,” states Royal Caribbean cruise line on its website. “We continue to encourage the CDC and other U.S. government officials to re-evaluate this policy.”

‘I started to cry’

Canada is one of several countries — including Germany, Italy, France and Thailand — that has doled out mixed vaccines to a number of its citizens. But there is no international consensus on the practice. 

The CDC said the U.S. is conducting trials on the safety and effectiveness of mixed vaccines, and that the agency may update its vaccine recommendations once it has new data. 

But that’s of little comfort to Canadians with mixed doses who’ve already made travel plans to the U.S., such as snowbirds and those who’ve booked winter vacations. 

In May, Norma Chrobak of Orillia, Ont., booked a special family trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands to celebrate her partner’s 75th birthday. The trip consists of a week-long chartered boat cruise in February — at a cost of $26,000. 

Norma Chrobak of Orillia, Ont., with her partner, Bob Kemp. Chrobak is worried she may have to cancel a special trip to the U.S. Virgin Island she booked to celebrate Kemp’s 75th birthday. (submitted by Norma Chrobak)

The problem is, five out of the 10 family members set to go on the trip — including Chrobak and her partner — have a mix of AstraZeneca and Moderna. 

“My heart just almost exploded in my chest,” said Chrobak when she learned about the coming U.S. vaccine requirement for travellers. “I started to cry.”

She has already paid a $12,500 deposit and, even though she purchased travel insurance, Chrobak is unsure at this point if she can get a full refund if she must cancel the trip. 

The cruise was supposed to be a surprise birthday gift for Chrobak’s partner. But she’s speaking publicly about it in the hopes the Canadian government will pressure the U.S. to accept mixed vaccines. 

“Somebody’s got to take this bull by the horns,” she said. “There’s got to be something that can be done.”

WATCH | Travellers with mixed vaccines say they can’t board some cruises: 

Travellers with mixed vaccines say they can’t board some cruises

Many Canadians who have received mixed doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are facing travel issues in countries that don’t recognize them as being fully vaccinated. Travel bloggers Karen and Brian Hosier share how the ‘frustrating’ rules are affecting their travel plans and business. 6:34

Canada updated its vaccination guidelines in June to recommend mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses based on emerging research that found it was both safe and effective.

On Thursday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Canada is in talks with the U.S. about its coming vaccine requirement for foreign air passengers. 

“We have had quite a series of discussions with U.S. counterparts,” she said during a news conference. “We’ve basically been providing some technical support to help them make a decision on the mixed dose, particularly AstraZeneca followed by an mRNA vaccine.”

The waiting game

Lawyer Henry Chang, who specializes in Canadian and U.S. immigration law, said he’s optimistic the U.S. will soon change its position on mixed vaccines.

“My gut feeling is that they’re going to have to resolve it. If not right when the vaccine requirements come in, soon after, because there are going to be too many people complaining about this,” said Chang, who is with the law firm Dentons in Toronto. 

If the U.S. doesn’t budge on mixed vaccines come November, some Canadians will still have options. Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are each offering third vaccine doses to people in their province who require it for travel.

But that doesn’t help potential travellers such as Chrobak in Ontario, who must wait to find out the fate of her trip.

“Pretty much just feeling devastated, feeling like I have no control,” she said.

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