US to End COVID Vaccine Rule for Air Travelers on May 11

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The US government has announced the end of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for travelers entering the country by air. The rules will be lifted on May 11, the same day that the coronavirus public health emergency in the USA ends.

The US House of Representatives voted to remove this last remaining pandemic travel restriction for the United States in February 2023. However, the exemption is only now coming into effect.

This means that holders of a US ESTA will no longer need to present a vaccine certificate to gain entry to the United States. The vaccine requirement will also be lifted for foreign citizens entering the US by land or sea.  

The move follows the removal of the requirement to show a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure in June 2022.

Although the US coronavirus entry requirements have now been removed, international visitors are still advised to check the United States Visa Policy to find out the other travel documents they may need.

US to End COVID Vaccine Rule for Air Travelers on May 11

Why the US Is Removing the Vaccine Requirement for Visitors

The Biden administration has announced the removal of the vaccine requirement for travelers in light of the decreasing number of COVID-19 cases. The successful rollout of vaccination programs across the country is also a key motive.

US vaccination mandates were first introduced in September 2021. The White House stated that the measures were “to promote the health and safety of individuals and the efficiency of workplaces, protecting vital sectors of our economy and vulnerable populations”.

The US government also introduced vaccine certificate requirements for international arrivals “to slow the spread of new variants entering the country and to allow our healthcare system time to effectively manage access to care”.

However, a White House statement released on May 1, 2023, said that mandatory vaccine requirements are now being lifted because “we are now in a different phase of our response when these measures are no longer necessary

Since January 2021, COVID-related hospitalizations in the US have decreased by almost 91%, while coronavirus-related deaths have declined by 95%. Additionally, up to 270 million US citizens have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine Requirement Also Removed for US Federal Workers

In addition to removing the vaccination requirement for international visitors, the US government is also exempting federal employees and contractors from this need from May 11.

On the same date, vaccination requirements for Head Start educators, CMS-certified healthcare facilities, and certain non-citizens arriving at US land borders will also be lifted.

The Biden Administration had previously decreed that around 3.5 million federal employees and contractors should have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by January 2022.

Unless these employees had filed a pending or approved exception or extension request, they could have faced firing or disciplinary action.

However, in October 2022 the White House instructed federal agencies not to enforce the contractor vaccination requirements. Then, in March 2023, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling that prevents the employee vaccination requirement from going into effect.

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