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US to reopen travel to international tourists Monday

After nearly 2 years of travel bans on more than 30 countries, starting Monday, foreign tourists can enter the U.S., if vaccinated.

TAMPA, Fla. — Starting Monday, the U.S. will reopen travel to vaccinated international tourists. This applies to those visiting by land, air, or ferry.

In an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. banned travel from more than three dozen countries, including China, Iran, much of Europe, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, and Brasil.

For travelers needing to get into the U.S. from a banned country, many would quarantine for two weeks in a country not banned in order to be allowed in. 

Accepted vaccines go beyond just what is FDA approved or authorized in the U.S. Any vaccine that has been given Emergency Use Authorization by the World Health Organization, listed below, will be accepted for foreign travelers to enter the United States. 

Vaccines listed for Emergency Use by the World Health Organization include:

  • Janssen/Johnson & Johnson
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • BIBP/Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

Children under 18 are exempt from the vaccine requirement. Paper and electronic documentation of vaccines will be expected, and it's up to the airlines to enforce it. Failure to enforce can leave airlines with hefty fines.

"International travel, with other people coming in from other countries that have vaccines that aren't quite as good as the ones we have here in North America, that may be a little bit more concerning," Dr. Michael Teng, USF professor and health virologist, said.

Teng said WHO is in an unenviable position, trying to get the world vaccinated. The vaccines approved are effective, but the U.S. has higher standards. 

"I think, frankly, I think the FDA's are a little more stringent," Teng said. "They've done a little bit better job to make sure the data is clear."

Teng said travel overall is pretty safe with the mitigation efforts enforced by airlines, like mandatory use of masks and cleaning in between flights. He recommends using an N-95 mask for air travel, as opposed to cloth masks, or surgical masks that do not form a seal around your mouth and nose. 

"If we are going to open up, I think that just means everybody here, there's a possibility we can bring in viruses from breakthrough infections from other places," Teng said. 

Tampa International Airport is not adding any additional international flights until next Monday, Nov. 15 with British Airways. While international travel will slowly increase, TPA reports domestic travel is almost back to pre-pandemic numbers.