Here’s the problem: if you tell people they should not travel even with a vaccine, they are less likely to get vaccinated. Trust me, I’ve been speaking to the skeptics.
Lengthy “Do Not Travel” List Will Lead To More Vaccine Skepticism
I recently wrote a piece encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. It was geared toward skeptics and unsurprisingly led to an interesting discussion both on the blog and amongst friends and family who read it.
A common refrain: why should I get vaccinated if I cannot travel anyway?
It’s a reasonable question…a lot more reasonable to me, it seems, than the concerns over its efficacy or potential side effects. The short answer is still because you position yourself more likely to save yourself and others.
The U.S. State Department has not helped the cause of vaccination by updating its guidance to place about 80% of the world on its Level 4 “Do Not Travel” list. This list is simply a recommendation, not a travel ban, but it implicates business travel, insurance protection, and peace of mind.
Certainly, as COVID-19 cases surge in many parts of the world and are on the uptick again in the United States, there is risk to travel. But the “just a little bit longer” or “wait till we are vaccinated” excuse no longer seems to apply. Even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control made crystal clear that vaccinations are highly effective in reducing both the contraction and spread of COVID-19, we seem to have conflicting language coming from the U.S. State Department (which it says “reflects an adjustment in the State Department’s Travel Advisory system to rely more on existing epidemiological assessments.”).
It is that inherently conflicting language, even if it can be squared away with a nuanced discussion, that increases skepticism amongst the very segment of society that need to be convinced in the first place.
Unfortunately, the United States has not published the methodology it has used to arrive at its travel warnings and many choices (such as assigning Zimbabwe a lower risk than Germany or Denmark) suggest a political calculation beyond an epidemiological one.
The result is unexpected and unfortunate: more skepticism, a disintegration in trust, and also a greater likelihood that people will just give up all precautions out of frustration and act in desperation or anger.
I don’t see bad motives underlying the latest “do not travel” advisory. Nevertheless, I see it as counterproductive to the mission of fighting to control COVID-19 by taking an approach that is simply no longer palatable to most people and also belied by explicit statements from other U.S. health officials.
It’s time to start tying financial incentives like stimulus checks or tax cuts to getting vaccinated and release the surplus supply of AstraZeneca jabs in the United States rather than scare people with vague travel warnings which have not been objectively explained. The sooner more are vaccinated (with an effective, non-Russian and Chinese vaccine), the sooner these travel warnings will no longer apply.