Canadians with mixed vaccines and U.S. travel plans can breathe a sigh of relief tonight.
Following weeks of speculation, the United States confirmed late Friday it will accept mixed vaccines when new rules kick in on Nov. 8 requiring that foreign travellers entering the U.S. be fully vaccinated.
Individuals inoculated with any combination of two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization will be considered fully vaccinated, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CBC News.
U.S.-approved vaccines include Pfizer and Moderna, and WHO-approved vaccines include AstraZeneca and its Indian-made counterpart, Covishield. So travellers with any combination of these vaccines will be allowed to enter the U.S.
The CDC does not recognize mixing COVID-19 vaccines but said it updated its guidance to reflect growing global acceptance of the practice.
“While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said in an email.
Millions of Canadians have mixed vaccines, such as one dose of AstraZeneca and one dose of Pfizer or Moderna. When the U.S. recently announced it would impose a vaccination requirement for travellers entering by both land and air, many Canadians with mixed doses worried they would soon be barred from entering the country.
“We felt kind of blindsided,” said snowbird, Ingrid Whyte of Toronto. Following Canadian government guidance, she and her husband, John, each got one dose of Covishield and a second dose of Pfizer.
“We did everything that we were supposed to do in terms of getting vaccines,” Whyte said.
The couple had booked a flight to Florida for Nov. 17, but cancelled it due to concerns over their mixed vaccines. They’re now relieved to hear their vaccine combination won’t be an issue when entering the U.S.
“We are thrilled,” Whyte said. “I wish it could have been a little sooner. It would have allowed people to plan a little bit more effectively. But in the long run, it’s great news.”
It’s also good news for Petar Sesar of London, Ont., who has a mix of Moderna and Pfizer.
Sesar’s fiancée, Mara Bakula, lives in Cleveland. Sesar welcomed news this week that the U.S. land border will reopen on Nov. 8 to non-essential travellers, as he prefers to drive to visit Bakula.
But he also worried he might have no U.S. travel options come Nov. 8 if the country rejected his vaccine mix.
“That was a very scary moment,” he said. “It felt like house arrest of sorts, like now I [may] have no option.”
Earlier this year, the CDC stated online that a mix of two mNRA vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, would be accepted in “exceptional situations.” But Sesar didn’t rest easy until he learned that the CDC had approved his exact combination.
“It is unbelievable,” he said. “It is such a relief. I share the relief with millions of [Canadians].”
Where does the U.S. stand now on mixed vaccines?
Canada updated its vaccination guidelines in June to recommend mixing COVID-19 vaccine doses based on emerging research that found it was both safe and effective.
Meanwhile, the CDC still maintains that “data on the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series are limited.”
But that could change.
The U.S. recently conducted a study exploring the effectiveness of using a different COVID-19 vaccine as a booster shot.