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The Washington Post 20 September, 2021 - 10:30am 28 views

US to ease travel restrictions on fully vaccinated foreign visitors

CNN 20 September, 2021 - 11:30am

Updated 11:11 AM ET, Mon September 20, 2021

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US to ease travel restrictions on fully vaccinated foreign visitors

CNBC 20 September, 2021 - 11:30am

Updated 11:11 AM ET, Mon September 20, 2021

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PolitiFact - Yes, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is FDA approved

TravelPulse 20 September, 2021 - 11:30am

Misinformation isn't going away just because it's a new year. Support trusted, factual information with a tax deductible contribution to PolitiFact.

The Pfizer vaccine had been administered under an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. On Aug. 23, the vaccine received FDA approval.

Even after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave its approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine — the first vaccine to get such approval — posters on TikTok were still suggesting it was some kind of rogue jab.

One video started with a woman stating: "You guys, the Pfizer vaccine is not approved. They’ve been saying it’s been approved. I have proof, straight from the website where you sign up to get your vaccine, it is not approved for anything beyond the emergency use approval." 

TikTok identified videos with this message as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact's partnership with TikTok.)

Similar claims have been made elsewhere on TikTok. Text with another video states: "The Pfizer vaccine is not an approved FDA vaccine it's only approved for emergency use for a third dose." 

The claim that the Pfizer vaccine is not approved is wrong.

During public health emergencies, the FDA has the legal power to grant emergency use authorization to certain products if they meet specific criteria and when there’s no adequate, approved and available alternative to treat the malady. That’s what happened when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in early 2020 and there weren’t any approved vaccines for it.

The FDA granted emergency use authorization to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in December 2020 and to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in February 2021.

In a news release on Aug. 23 that was headlined, "FDA Approves First COVID-19 Vaccine," the FDA announced its approval of the Pfizer vaccine to people age 16 and over. 

Perhaps adding to the confusion, the FDA announcement noted that Pfizer would now market the vaccine under the name Comirnaty. It also noted that the vaccine is still covered only by the emergency use authorization for people ages 12 to 15 and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

But there is no question that the Pfizer vaccine has received FDA’s approval.

While the Pfizer vaccine "and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product," the FDA announcement said. 

"While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated."

Moderna announced on Aug. 25 that it has completed its application for  approval. Johnson & Johnson is expected to apply sometime in 2021.

We rate the TikTok posts False.

TikTok, post, Sept. 2, 2021

TikTok, post, Aug. 25, 2021

TikTok, post, Aug. 31, 2021

PolitiFact, "Ask PolitFact: When will the COVID-19 vaccines get FDA approval?", July 29, 2021

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking a claim about the FDA’s role in approving pesticides in food," Aug. 27, 2021

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, Aug. 23, 2021

Associated Press, "What does full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine mean?", Aug. 23, 2021

USA Today, "Fact check: FDA has fully approved Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine," Aug. 26, 2021

Reuters, "Fact Check-Media reports have not lied about Pfizer-BioNTech’s FDA approval," Aug. 27, 2021

AFP Fact Check, "US regulators approved Pfizer-BioNTech shot under new name," Aug. 31, 2021

NPR, "It's Pronounced Koe-mir'-na-tee. How The Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine's Name Came To Be," Aug. 24, 2021

US to accept vaccinated foreign travelers in early November

CNBC Television 20 September, 2021 - 11:30am

The Biden administration will lift restrictions on fully vaccinated international travelers in November.

The New York Times 20 September, 2021 - 09:28am

The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions starting in November on foreigners who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, reopening the country to thousands of people, including those who have been separated from family in the United States during the pandemic.

The foreign travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before boarding and a negative test for the coronavirus within three days before coming to the United States, Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic coordinator, said Monday.

“International travel is critical to connecting families and friends, to fueling small and large businesses, to promoting the open exchange ideas and culture,” Mr. Zients said. “That’s why, with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel.”

The administration has restricted travel for foreigners looking to fly to the United States from a group of European countries, Iran and China for more than a year.

Unvaccinated Americans overseas aiming to travel home will have to clear stricter testing requirements. They will need to test negative for the coronavirus one day before traveling to the United States and show proof that they have bought a test to take after arriving in the United States, Mr. Zients said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also soon issue an order directing airlines to collect phone numbers and email addresses of travelers for a new contact-tracing system. Authorities will then follow up with the travelers after arrival to ask whether they are experiencing symptoms of the virus.

The changes announced on Monday only apply to air travel and do not affect restrictions along the land border, Mr. Zients said.

The Trump administration began implementing the travel bans against foreign travelers in January 2020 in the hopes of preventing the spread of disease. The effort was largely unsuccessful. The prior administration’s mangled announcements over the restrictions also led to exoduses of American citizens, with packed, chaotic airports that had porous screenings.

Mr. Biden has kept the restrictions against potential travelers from the European Union, Britain, India and others, despite pleas from business leaders in need of profits from tourism, immigrant workers who traveled overseas to renew work visas to work in the United States only to be left stranded and citizens left separated from their romantic partners abroad.

The White House maintained the restrictions were necessary, particularly after the spread of the contagious Delta variant this summer fueled a rise of coronavirus cases and undermined the central theme of Mr. Biden’s presidency — vaccinating Americans and getting the pandemic under control.

Mr. Zients cited the pace of vaccinations administered globally as a reason for the administration’s pivot. The decision also comes on the eve of a visit by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was expected to press Mr. Biden to lift the ban. British officials had hoped the president would announce a relaxation of restrictions when he came to Cornwall, England, in June for the Group of 7 summit meeting and were disappointed when he did not. Their frustration has only deepened since then.

The easing of the travel restrictions also comes as the administration has sought to reduce tensions with another ally in France after the United States kept Paris in the dark as they secretly negotiated an agreement with Australia to build nuclear submarines.

British officials note that the United States had not imposed a similar ban on people from Caribbean nations, which had a higher rate of infection than Britain, or from Argentina, which had lower percentage of its population vaccinated. About 82 percent of people in Britain above the age of 16 have had two shots.

Britain and several European Union countries allow fully vaccinated people from the United States to travel without quarantining, and officials there were annoyed when the United States did not reciprocate.

The ban, European officials point out, has kept families separated since early 2020, as the coronavirus was erupting across Europe. European countries have weathered a third wave of infections propelled by the Delta variant. But in several countries, including Britain, infection rates have begun to level off and even decline.

“Finally our parents and our family can come see us,” said Luca Marsura, 37, a manager in New York from the Italian city of Treviso, who has been unable to see his parents for nearly two years.

This summer he traveled back to Italy, but in order to return to the United States he had to spend two weeks in the Caribbean island of Aruba. “You have no idea how happy we are,” he said, “it would have meant another year without going back to Italy.”

US easing foreign travel restrictions; vaccinations required

Associated Press 20 September, 2021 - 09:23am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will ease foreign travel restrictions to the country beginning in November, allowing foreigners in if they have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test, the White House said Monday.

The new rules will replace a hodgepodge of restrictions that had barred non-citizens who had been in Europe, much of Asia and certain other countries in the prior 14 days from entering the U.S. The changes will allow families and others who have been separated by the travel restrictions for 18 months to plan for long-awaited reunifications.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients announced the new policies, which still will require all foreign travelers flying to the U.S. to demonstrate proof of vaccination before boarding, as well as proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of flight. Biden will also tighten testing rules for unvaccinated American citizens, who will need to be tested within a day before returning to the U.S., as well as after they arrive home.

Fully vaccinated passengers will not be required to quarantine, Zients said.

The new policy will replace the patchwork of travel bans first instituted by President Donald Trump last year and tightened by Biden that restrict travel by non-citizens who have in the prior 14 days been in the United Kingdom, European Union, China, India, Iran, Republic of Ireland, Brazil and South Africa.

Those travel bans had become the source of growing geopolitical frustration, particularly among allies in the UK and EU where virus cases are far lower than the U.S. The easing comes ahead of Biden meeting with some European leaders on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly this week.

“This is based on individuals rather than a country-based approach, so it’s a stronger system,” Zients said.

The EU and UK had previously moved to allow vaccinated U.S. travelers into their territories without quarantines, in an effort to boost business and tourism travel. But the EU recommended last month that some travel restrictions be reimposed on U.S. travelers to the bloc because of the rampant spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus in America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also require airlines to collect contact information from international travelers to facilitate tracing, Zients said.

It was not immediately clear which vaccines would be acceptable under the U.S.-system and whether those unapproved in the U.S. could be used. Zients said that decision would be up to the CDC.

Zients said there would be no immediate changes to the U.S. land border policies, which continue to restrict much cross-border travel with Mexico and Canada.

The announcement was met with cheers by the air travel industry, which has lost significant revenues from the pandemic-related declines in international travel.

“We applaud the Biden Administration for establishing a path to re-opening international travel to the U.S.,” said Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant. “Science tells us that vaccinations coupled with testing is the safest way to re-open travel and we are optimistic this important decision will allow for the continued economic recovery both in the U.S. and abroad and the reunification of families who have been separated for more than 18 months.”

Worldwide, air travel is still down more than half from pre-pandemic levels, and the decline is much sharper for cross-border flying. By July, domestic travel had recovered to 84% of 2019 numbers, but international travel was just 26% of the same month two years ago, according to figures released this month by the airline industry’s main global trade group, the International Air Transport Association.

The numbers are similar but not quite as stark for the U.S., where international travel in August was 46% of that in August 2019, according to Airlines for America. Arrivals by non-U.S. citizens were only 36% of the 2019 normal.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he was “delighted” by the news. He said: “It’s a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted that the move was “excellent news for travelers from the UK to the US. Important for out economic recovery, families and trade.”

Britain scrapped quarantines for fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. and the European Union in early August, and has been pushing for Washington to ease its rules. But Johnson said Sunday that he did not expect the change to come this week.

Airlines hailed the U.S. decision as a lifeline for the struggling industry. Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines U.K. said it was “a major breakthrough.”

Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said it was “a major milestone to the reopening of travel at scale, allowing consumers and businesses to book travel to the U.S. with confidence.”

“The U.K. will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the U.S., boosting trade and tourism as well as reuniting friends, families and business colleagues,” Weiss said.

French entrepreneur Stephane Le Breton, 45, expressed joy that he will finally be able to book his trip to New York city that had been put on hold over the virus restrictions.

“I felt frustrated that I couldn’t go to the U.S. as I had planned. It just didn’t make sense that authorities weren’t letting in vaccinated EU citizens.”

Le Breton, who lives in the Boulogne suburb of Paris, said he feels that the U.S. lifting the restrictions is a sign that the world is heading to a new, better phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a happy day. Big Apple, here I come!”

The new air travel policy will take effect in “early November,” Zients said, to allow airlines and travel partners time to prepare to implement the new protocols.

AP writers Jill Lawless in London, Thomas Adamson-Koumbouzis in Paris and David Koenig in Dallas contributed.

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