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WA Health Secretary: Vaccines a Game Changer for Summer Travel

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021   

SEATTLE -- Travel is expected to pick up this summer as vaccination rates increase and COVID-19 cases trend
downward, but health experts are reminding people they still need to travel safely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed mask rules for people who are fully vaccinated, that is, two weeks after their final shot. But masks still are required in certain places for everyone, such as on planes.

The vaccine has also been approved for children 12 and older.

Dr. Umair Shah, Washington state secretary of health, said we're still in a pandemic, so people should consider holding off traveling if they can.

"If you do decide to go, the first and foremost that we've been saying to everybody is get vaccinated," Shah urged. "If you're eligible, your kids 12 and older are eligible, get vaccinated. And if you're vaccinated, I think that really changes the equation on your safety and what you need to do in order to protect yourself."

Shah stressed people should respect local rules and regulations regarding COVID-19 while traveling. He also advised parents to set a good example, especially if their kids aren't eligible for the vaccine yet, and wear their masks. Nearly 48% of Washingtonians have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Dr. Amit Arwindekar, North American medical director for UnitedHealthcare Global, said people should be extra careful if they plan to travel internationally. He emphasized would-be travelers should stay on top of case rates and public health regulations at their destination. He added people should also check their health policy, noting that 80% of countries worldwide still have "Do Not Travel" warnings from the U.S. State Department.

"If you get sick, if you need to be hospitalized, or even if you just need to quarantine, and they're going to keep you from getting on the plane, you should understand, how are you going to pay for that?" Arwindekar asked. "Is it covered under your plan? And where can you go to get safe, high-quality care in that country?"

Arwindekar encouraged families with children younger than age 12, who are not yet approved to get the COVID-19 vaccine, to try to delay travel for now. He pointed out while the vast majority of young children get mild cases when infected, they could spread the virus to other people.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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