US will accept WHO-approved Covid-19 vaccines for international visitors

The new Covid-19 vaccine requirements will now apply to nearly all foreign nationals flying to the United States.
The new Covid-19 vaccine requirements will now apply to nearly all foreign nationals flying to the United States.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States will accept the use by international visitors of Covid-19 vaccines authorised by US regulators or the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said late on Friday (Oct 8).

On Sept 20, the White House announced the US in November would lift travel restrictions on air travellers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil and most of Europe who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. It did not specify then which vaccines would be accepted.

A CDC spokesman told Reuters on Friday: "Six vaccines that are FDA authorised/approved or listed for emergency use by WHO will meet the criteria for travel to the US."

Late on Friday, the CDC said that "earlier this week, to help them prepare their systems we informed airlines" of the vaccines that would be accepted and added "CDC will release additional guidance and information as the travel requirements are finalised".

Airlines for America, a trade group representing American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others, said it was "pleased by the CDC's decision to approve a list of authorised vaccinations for travellers entering the US. We look forward to working with the administration to implement this new global vaccine and testing framework by early November 2021".

Some countries had pressed the Biden administration to accept WHO-approved vaccines, since the US Food and Drug Administration authorised vaccines are not widely used in all countries.

The US will admit fully vaccinated air travellers from the 26 so-called Schengen countries in Europe as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

The unprecedented US restrictions have barred most non-US citizens who were in those countries within the past 14 days.

The new Covid-19 vaccine requirements will now apply to nearly all foreign nationals flying to the US - including those not subject to the prior restrictions.

The CDC must still finalise and publish new contract tracing rules for international visitors, which it sent to the White House for review on Sept 15.

The CDC must also detail rules for exceptions, which include children not yet eligible for shots, as well as for visitors from countries where vaccines are not widely available.

The administration must also decide whether to admit visitors part of Covid-19 clinical trials or have recently contracted Covid-19 and are not yet eligible for vaccination.