MIXED VACCINES SHAKE UP RETURN TO TRAVEL

When are Two Doses Not Enough? When Destinations, Cruise Lines Forbid Vaccine Mixing

Bridgetown, Barbados
Bridgetown, Barbados

In a headshaker of a new wrinkle in the return to travel, Canadians who took the government of Canada’s advice to get the first available vaccine, then get a non-identical vaccine as their second dose, may be regretting it.

As Canadians finally start getting back to travel, some are finding their choice of destination or cruise line aren’t accepting travellers with ‘mixed vaccines’ as fully vaccinated, and it’s putting their travel plans in jeopardy.

Including this reporter’s.

Over a week ago, I saw a post on a luxury cruise Facebook group about a British couple booked on a Seabourn cruise out of Barbados fearing they would not be able to make their trip as that country was not accepting mixed vaccines to qualify arrivals as fully vaccinated.

The Facebook post said Seabourn had advised the couple not to cancel their cruise just yet, as it was in conversation with authorities in Barbados.

I followed up with Barbados’ reps here in Canada, DCI, requesting confirmation and clarification of the policy. Clearly, a lot of other potential travellers to the country had encountered the same problem, because by the end of last week, authorities had rethought their position and the government issued this statement reversing its previous policy:

“The Government of Barbados continues to review and update its travel protocols for entry into the country.

The latest update, effective July 15, 2021, will allow for travellers with mixed vaccines to be categorized as Fully Vaccinated.

Travellers who have mixed vaccine regimens of Ministry of Health and Wellness approved vaccines will be considered Fully Vaccinated, for example, first dose of one brand followed by second dose of another which is not a one-dose regimen.

For more information on Barbados’ travel protocols, including the list of accepted vaccines, visit www.barbadostravelprotocols.com.”

Ottawa says it’s working with other countries to ensure that Canadians with two non-identical vaccines are recognized as fully vaccinated. As those initiatives continue, as well as individual countries like Barbados updating their own protocols, that may solve some travellers’ problems.

Cruise Blues

But other pitfalls for Canadian travellers who believed they were fully vaccinated with two non-identical vaccines remain.

In a long-running saga often covered by Open Jaw, cruise lines have hitched their return to operations on sailing internationally with both crew and guests fully vaccinated.

In fact, the CDC has made vaccinations a requirement of easing restrictive protocols under its Conditional Sail Order. And just this weekend, the agency won a court ruling that confirmed the CDC is able to mandate the health conditions for ships to resume sailing from American waters.

Most cruise lines are not only complying, but embracing vaccinated cruises. But in a twist, in recent days, updates to a number of major cruise lines’ web sites indicates that booked pax with mixed vaccines will not be recognized as fully vaccinated - and may not be able to travel at all.

Open Jaw can confirm that as of Monday, 19JUL, the list of cruise lines forbidding mixed vaccinations includes, but is not limited to Holland American Line, Princess Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Holland America Line’s web site says, “Guests who have received one single dose of a vector vaccine (e.g. AstraZeneca) and one single dose of a mRNA vaccine (e.g. Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna) will not be considered fully vaccinated. Guests who have received two single doses of mixed vaccines that are the same type (e.g., both are mRNA) will be considered fully vaccinated and will be permitted to sail, so long as the final dose is received at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise.” Sister cruise line Princess’ web site has an identical notification. 

Norwegian Cruise Line prohibits mixed vaccines only for American sailings: “For ships embarking or disembarking at US ports, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and/or World Health Organization (WHO) authorized single brand vaccination protocol will be accepted. Including, J&J Janssen, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/Oxford. Mixed vaccination protocol will not be accepted (i.e. Pfizer + Moderna or AstraZeneca + Pfizer, etc).”

That’s where this story gets personal.

I’m booked on the 07AUG sailing of the Norwegian Encore to Alaska from Seattle, to report for Open Jaw about one of the first returns to Alaskan cruising.

However, now according to NCL’s web site, with my first dose of Astra-Zenica and my second dose of Moderna, I will not be able to sail.

All is not lost. RoyalCaribbeanBlog last week published an article that Royal Caribbean would not recognize mixed vaccines, and almost immediately updated the article saying, “Since posting this article, Royal Caribbean has revised its website and no longer lists this policy. Less than a day after other cruise lines announced similar policies, Royal Caribbean updated its website,” with new protocols.

Today, vaccine policies on none of the Royal Caribbean Group’s cruise lines appear to reject mixed vaccines, which may be at the leading edge of a trend that other cruise lines may soon follow.

Hopefully in time for my Alaska cruise.

Open Jaw is following up with cruise lines and will update this story with new information as it becomes available.

But the issue is just one more hurdle for intrepid travel clients hoping to be among the vanguard of the return to travel to overcome until all these unexpected wrinkles get sorted out.

 

Lynn Elmhirst

Editor

With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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