Is It Ethical To Travel Internationally Before The World Is Vaccinated?

by Jeremy

Many Americans are longing for the days when they could take a dream vacation to Paris, Bali, or even just over the border to Toronto. As vaccine availability increases in the U.S., people are feeling a glimmer of hope that international travel will be back on the table soon.


But even as more people get vaccinated and countries open up to American tourists, traveling abroad may remain inadvisable for a time, especially to places with less widespread vaccine access. As we move forward and start planning trips again, there are important factors to consider before grabbing our passports and jetting off.

HuffPost asked bioethicists, as well as public health and travel experts, to weigh in on the ethics of traveling abroad before vaccines have been widely administered worldwide. Read on for their thoughts.

We haven’t ruled out transmission risk.

“Individuals who are vaccinated have protection ― although not 100% protection ― against developing severe disease if infected with SARS-CoV-2,” said Amy McGuire, professor of biomedical ethics and director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. “However, we are still generating evidence of how well different vaccines protect against transmission of the virus.”

It’s possible that vaccinated travelers could still transmit the virus to others, so until we have more data on how much vaccines reduce transmission risk, we can’t draw particularly meaningful conclusions about the ethics of travel in the coming weeks and months.

“If someone in the U.S. travels to another country, they may have an asymptomatic infection that they bring with them to the other country, putting people there at risk,” William Miller, senior associate dean for research at the Ohio State University’s College of Public Health, told HuffPost in an email. “Or they may acquire an infection there and bring it back with them to the people they are close to. The vaccinated traveler may not get sick but they may cause others to become sick ― that’s why, in general, it still is not a good idea to travel yet.”

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