The Biden administration will allow all international travellers to enter the US as long as they have received any vaccine authorised by the World Health Organization, even the relatively untested Chinese-made Sinovac and Sinopharm jabs, from November 8.
Joe Biden, the US president, on Monday signed a presidential proclamation detailing the country’s new international travel rules, which will replace the patchwork of blanket bans that has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic.
The proclamation was accompanied by a set of detailed instructions for airlines, which will be expected to enforce the new vaccine mandates.
Under the rules, which will take effect in two weeks’ time, anyone who has been inoculated with one of the seven vaccines authorised by the WHO will be allowed to enter the US by land or air.
They include the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, which were developed in China, despite the lack of data about their effectiveness against the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Travelers will also be allowed to have received “mix and match” jabs, using one dose from one vaccine manufacturer and a second from another.
Children under the age of 18, people with allergies to any of the vaccine ingredients and visitors from countries where less than 10 per cent of the population has been vaccinated will all be exempt from the new mandate.
The White House on Monday said 50 countries had vaccination rates falling below the 10 per cent threshold. Data collated by the Financial Times shows these countries are mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.
A senior administration official said the guidelines had been drawn relatively broadly to encourage as much vaccine take-up as possible.
“Preventing people from getting sick, hospitalised and dying of Covid is a top, top priority,” the person said. “Everything we can do to incentivise that process reduces the amount of viruses circulating, reduces the morbidity and mortality for those individuals, and actually reduces the strain on healthcare systems to cope with disease.”
The new vaccine mandate will apply to all non-citizens travelling to the US. Americans and immigrants to the country will not have to be vaccinated to enter, although unvaccinated passengers will have to test negative for Covid one day before flying. Vaccinated passengers only have to test negative within three days of departure.
The new rules will replace the blanket ban which was imposed by Donald Trump, the former president, on any non-Americans who had been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen area, Iran, India, China, South Africa or Brazil in the previous 14 days.