There’s been an unmistakable trend in travel this year: people are staying closer to home, and there’s reason for that.

Whether it’s renting a cabin in the woods, or taking a short domestic flight, people remain hesitant to cross borders. Even for the fully vaccinated, testing makes people nervous, as do the many unknowns of changing restrictions.

Unfortunately, just as travel is becoming easier for the fully vaccinated, with countries including the USA ending travel bans, and quarantines dropped in most corners of the globe, a new ticking time bomb of a problem is presenting itself.

It’s the trend of “expiration dates” for the vaccinated which make people ineligible for entry into certain countries. For many, it’s an incredibly difficult new issue to navigate and one that’s not easily solved. Already, its impacting future trips.

Countries Are Introducing Vaccination Expiration

Fully vaccinated, but did the good deed more than 6 months ago? You’re already ineligible to visit some countries, with more on the way.

For some, the number is 9 months and for others it’s 12, but a growing list of countries is putting a clock on what counts as fully vaccinated. If you’re not within that window, you are no longer counted as fully vaccinated, and there are many instances where that therefore means ineligible to visit.

With news from the US that Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a key expert in the vaccine movement believes that the pandemic will become endemic in the USA by January, it’s difficult to tell whether this frustrating new trend is temporary, or here to stay for a long time.

Austria is the latest European country to put a clock on your last vaccination dose, and now joins both Croatia and Switzerland in this regard.

The country is banning all unvaccinated visitors aged 12 and up from entry, while simultaneously creating new rules which state that anyone who received their last dose more than 9 months ago is no longer considered fully vaccinated.

To date, Israel is taking the most aggressive approach, considering someone ineligible for entry after just 6 months from their last vaccination dose. Switzerland is leading things in a slightly more realistic direction, using one year validity.

According to The Guardian, the United Kingdom is now also contemplating booster requirements for travel, but weighing the potential negative impacts and overall global picture of “endemic versus pandemic” before jumping on the bandwagon.

Most vaccinations began in early 2021, so most people remain within most vaccination windows now, but already that clock is getting close for some.

That brings the big issue — future trips.

All of this is happening while many remain either ineligible for boosters, or unable to easily secure an appointment on a reasonable time schedule.

For family travel, there is also the issue of unvaccinated children, particularly in countries which have yet to approve vaccination for minors of certain age groups, or may never will.

For people who are 8 months into their vaccination, but can’t get an appointment for 3 months, a trip to Austria during peak winter season is now effectively off the table. The same issue applies for people who require a “cooling off” period before eligibility for a booster.

If booster dates don’t match up with future travel plans, the alternatives of quarantine, additional testing or cancelling aren’t exactly pretty.

Will Others Follow, Or Is This Short Term?

On a planet with hundreds of countries worth seeing, a handful of countries restricting travel isn’t immediately the end of the world. However, the list seems to be growing at a rapid clip.

As noted, experts in many regions believe that with new pills, treatments and greater levels of vaccination, the worst may really be in the rear view by January.

If that’s the case, it’s hard to tell whether it would make sense for more countries to jeopardize any vital economic rebound, if numbers reach figures that put the covid-19 pandemic into the endemic levels of other largely seasonal illnesses.

Only time will tell whether this is a short lived “fad”, or something else.

GSTP Take: What You Can Do

I was fortunate to receive my booster just a few days ago. As soon as my New York Excelsior Pass updates with that nugget of information, I’ll be feeling pretty good, for at least 6 months.

If you currently have trips on the books, getting any required boosters or vaccinations at the first availability is undoubtedly the best way to go. Once it’s done, your clock of worries can finally reset. Well, 14 days later.

If you don’t currently have trips on the books and are in the planning phase, doing a deep dive into the local vaccination booster situation where you are is going to make any planning much easier.

If you can readily find appointments in the coming weeks for a potential trip a few months away, you can book stress free. If that’s not the case, at least you can pivot accordingly.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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20 Comments

  1. Are we sure that the booster shot date qualifies as the last date, then? My 2nd Pfizer was Feb, but my booster was 29 Sep.

    So clock resets to late Sep? Going to Switzerland in March…..

  2. I think it’s a bit of fear-mongering to suggest that people may not be able to get vaccine or booster appointments in a timely manner. I believe that literally anyone, anywhere in the USA can get a shot within a day or two, free of charge. Appointments/vaccines are not scarce.

    1. I was just in New York and it was a week or two. But the issue is – as other have noted in the comments, boosters aren’t currently showing in many digital passes. Some countries (including Singapore) won’t accept paper CDC cards, so it’s a bit of semantics as to why it’s a problem — but it’s a problem nonetheless.

    1. Yeah I’ll be really curious on this subject. I asked at Walgreens when I got my booster shot done this week and they said “maybe two weeks”, but I felt zero confidence whatsoever because none seemed to fully agree or have a defined time for when/if it might reflect. Obviously have the CDC card, but as we know, it’s a real problem abroad.

  3. Total mess. Food does not have different expiration dates depending on the country so why should the vaccine? If there’s a scientific and epidemiological justification for expiry it should be consistent. Secondly the admin around this is insane – the UK only just developed the app but ‘forgot’ about boosters, which I’m sure will involve a nice tidy fee for further work to whichever IT company designed the system.

  4. Makes more sense to me to wait until a month or 2 before you leave to get boosted. This ensures that you meet the requirements as well as have max protection since we know it wanes quickly. Planning on next Oct. so I’ll look to get boosted around July/Aug.

  5. I agree with a story you wrote earlier about how inernational travel won’t really return until testing requirements drop. There’s too much anxiety around that to have an enjoyable trip. Let alone that is a very discomforting and highly invasive test from a physical perspective.

    Those who do the right thing by getting protected shouldn’t have to be continuously punished by getting tested over and over. The anti-vaxxers just take their chances which is their choice. But we need to stop punishing those who do the right thing.

    Me personally I just wish there would be blanket vaccine or travel. That would so easily fix the travel problem. I believe Canada is doing this soon? How smart! In the US it won’t be a government thing, but a private company can certainly mandate this should they choose.

  6. According to https://reopen.europa.eu/en/from-to/OTC/AUT,
    the un-vaccinated can travel to Austria with just a PCR test (72 hr) or a rapid antigen test (48 hr) if they fly from a country on Appendix A and have stayed there for the previous 10 days.

    So, you can still go if you are un-vaccinated. How much freedom you have once there: another story.

    Five more years. Then they’ll finally start saying the word ‘endemic’.
    Five more years before you can travel without thinking constantly about the virus.
    We’ll have treatments too which will negate yearly shots.
    Governments that insist will be voted out. People are getting fed up with these control freaks.

  7. I do not disagree with your assessment, BUT I think it’s moot: there won’t be serious travel as long as there is a test requirement. Who can honestly risk getting stuck overseas because they tested hot? Old people, I suppose? It’s ridiculous. We just need to forget this Covid crap and move on.

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