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Coronavirus | Vaccines

Will booster shots be needed to travel? Do vaccines have an expiration date?

The US has drawn up plans for vaccine boosters in the fall and nations have begun to only accept traveler's vaccinations from within the last 12 months.

Two women pass by an empty restaurant in the downtown of Zagreb, Croatia.
Antonio BatEFE

With the Delta variant still rampant in the US, the government is considering all possible measures to slow the spread and prevent a return to large restrictions in the winter. The CDC has put in place preparations for more vaccine doses in the autumn while states are beginning to introduce proof of vaccination for recreational activities.

When will the US start distributing booster shots?

September 20 will see the first distribution of third shots for vaccines. On Wednesday August 18, the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walesky, said in a statement: "Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout."

"For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability."

People will be able to get their third dose eight months after their second dose.

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What vaccines will need them?

All vaccines will require a third dose, but the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would only need a second, considering it's a single shot vaccine.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General, said to CNN that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would likely need another dose, but the government was waiting on further information from the pharmaceuticals giant.

What may be changing for vaccinated travelers?

Up-to-date vaccinations for other diseases such as influenza and hepatitis are not uncommon for travelers and covid-19 is proving to be no different. Croatia has become the first country in the EU to put an expiry date on vaccine passports. Travelers will need proof of a negative covid-19 test if their second dose was more than nine months before the date of arrival.

It is possible that in the future a covid-19 vaccine may be needed regularly, like is in place for other diseases. Dr. Bob Bollinger, a professor at John Hopkins University, told the Lonely Planet, "It is certainly possible that boosters will be needed periodically for covid-19. But we don’t yet know how frequently boosters might be needed. We also don’t yet know if, like flu vaccinations, we might need booster vaccinations that are periodically modified to protect against new SARS-CoV-2 strains," he explained.

Extra doses of vaccines could continue to put the global fight against covid-19 under more pressure as lower-income countries would continue to lose out on important doses.

"We're planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket," Dr. Mike Ryan, director of the WHO's emergency program, told reporters last week.


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