No vacation without a vaccination

Without a COVID-19 shot, your travel options are limited. Is that fair?

If you want to visit Europe this summer, you may have no choice. If you want to take a cruise, you don't either. And you'll probably need one if you want to see Canada, too.

You'll have to get a COVID-19 vaccination — and you'll have to carry a controversial vaccination passport.

Americans are slowly coming to the realization that there's no vacation without a vaccination. 

Last week, European Union representatives said they'd welcome American visitors in June, but only if they have proof of vaccination. They suggested there might be some flexibility for those with immunity or who test negative, but details remain sketchy. The EU is already working on a vaccination passport called a Digital Green Certificate. 

There's a long list of cruise lines that requires a vaccination to book a vacation. In fact, it's hard to find one now that doesn't.

And it looks as if extra-cautious Canada, which is still quarantining international arrivals, will do something similar. And most cruise lines have already announced that they will only accept bookings from vaccinated guests.

🎧 EXTRA: More thoughts on “mandatory” vaccinations on my weekly podcast.

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People want to travel. The latest Finder Travel Index found that interest in travel has risen from just 17 percent in February to 26 percent last month.

Will they get a vaccination to travel?

The problem is us

So what's the problem? Frankly, it's us.

For at least half of the U.S. population, getting a vaccination and participating in a vaccination passport program won't be a problem. They believe the scientists who promise the vaccine is safe. They trust the news media when it reports that complications and the unfortunate deaths following the vaccinations are isolated and rare.

But for a significant number of Americans, getting a vaccination is unthinkable. And the idea of a vaccination passport is an unspeakable violation of their liberties. If that sounds like hyperbole, then you aren't listening to enough talk radio — or hearing the governors of states like Florida, Texas and Idaho, all of whom have either banned vaccination passports or promised to do so.

I get emails from those opposed to a vaccine regularly, and you've probably seen their comments in this newsletter. A few days ago, one of them declared that they would never "inject that poison in my body." Another angrily told me that her vaccination status was "nobody's business."

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Actually, it's everyone's business

But now entire countries, entire continents, are saying: As a matter of fact, it is our business. We don't want you to visit our country and infect our population. We have the right to ask you to prove you've been vaccinated. Your vaccination status is everyone's business. 

If you disagree, stay home.

So now many Americans who believe their governor is awesome for banning vaccination passports and who would never get a shot of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson are going to find themselves effectively banned from Europe. They won't be able to take a cruise. And it's unlikely they'll be allowed into Canada.

Here's the question that these Americans will have to ask in the coming weeks:

✓ Is it worth getting a vaccination so I can take a vacation?

✓ Are my political beliefs more important than my travel freedom?

✓ If I resist getting a vaccination, and a vaccination passport, will this dilemma eventually go away?

You won't like these answers

Every Monday in the Washington Post travel section's live event, I try to answer increasingly unanswerable questions about travel. 

For example, "When will Canada open to U.S. tourists?" I don't know. I asked Canadian tourism officials. They don't know, either. No one knows the future. 

Or, "Is it safe to fly?" My non-answer: "It depends who you are."

The three difficult questions I just raised may also be unanswerable. But here's my educated guess.

Should I get a vaccination to travel? No. Get one to protect yourself from COVID-19 and its variants. Being able to take a vacation is a benefit. But you should be doing this for your health.

Are my beliefs more important than my vacation? Only you can answer that question. Some convictions are worth dying for, but I'm not sure vaccination passports and freedom of movement fall into that category. They might. Your call.

Will this go away if I ignore it? Probably not. Moderna and Pfizer are already working on booster shots. There are several COVID-19 variants out there, and it's likely we'll need to show evidence of a vaccination in 2022 and beyond. If I had to bet on it, I'd say vaccination passports will be here to stay. They may even be integrated into our regular passports.

You can always take a vacation in the USA

The Biden administration has already said it won't create a vaccination passport in the United States. That may have more to do with the logistical challenges of creating and verifying your vaccination status than anything else. Still, that leaves the entire country open to you if you don't want to get vaccinated.

Note that some states, like New York, do have vaccination passports. So you might not be able to attend a public event or dine in a restaurant without showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. But as someone fully vaccinated in the state of Arizona, I wouldn't even qualify for New York's vaccination passport, so I'm not sure how far they'll get with that medical ID. We'll just have to see.

Destinations like Florida and Texas are now fully open and won't ask to see your papers. 

I'm planning to stay in the States for the rest of 2021, but not for political reasons. My considerations are practical: My 14-year-old daughter doesn't qualify for any of the vaccines yet, which rules out a trip to any of the now-open European countries. I don't think I would feel comfortable traveling without her being fully vaccinated. (For those of you who believe COVID-19 is a hoax, please don't judge me. I want everyone to travel safely, including you.)

The bigger question is: Should other countries be able to force our hand on the COVID-19 vaccine? Is it right for them to deny us entrance if we have a valid passport but refuse to carry a vaccination passport? My inner libertarian wants to answer those questions one way; my inner germophobe, another.

What's your answer? Should Europe or Canada force us to get vaccinated — or deny us entry? Do you think the question will go away if and when we reach herd immunity? The comments are open. Please be respectful.

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