Monday, December 14, marks an historic day with the delivery and first distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine in the United States.  Following the FDAs approval, the first round of Covid vaccines will be distributed to 20 million people, 17 million healthcare professionals and 3.6 million to elderly in nursing homes.  It is anticipated that within the next 7-10 days the Moderna vaccine could receive FDA approval, which expands the distribution to areas not equipped for maintaining the extreme temperature requirements of the initial vaccine.  This, along with the UK distribution last week marks the first steps to what every person around the world has been waiting for – to see the beginning of the end to the pandemic.

Over 150 vaccines are in various stages of development and testing globally, which provides further hope and anticipation for a 2021 roll out of all recipients.   Based upon the results of early testing, FDA approvals and the ability to produce and distribute the various vaccines, it is anticipated that most American will have the opportunity for vaccination by mid 2021.

What does this news mean for business travelers, and how will it affect their travel plans within the next year?

The rate of development of the Covid-19 vaccines has surpassed all expectations in the speed to delivery as well as the high percentage of effectiveness.  

It is expected that most companies will recommence business travel in 2021 by incorporating the more readily accessible pre-trip testing alongside the roll out of the various vaccines.  

Will Travelers be Required to get the Vaccine?

It is highly unlikely that travelers will be required to provide certification of the vaccine to travel initially, as this is a personal decision and the vaccine is new without exhaustive testing under a number of conditions.  However, similar to providing the negative test results, a certification of vaccination, or technology similar to the upcoming CommonPass, is likely to be included in most countries’ entry requirements as an option to avoid quarantine measures.  

Technology companies providing Covid testing results (and likely vaccine certification) including the development of the CommonPass, is expected to be widely supported by numerous carriers including JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic for passengers flying out from New York, Boston, London and Hong Kong.

How will vaccines affect the Traveler Experience?

Airports, Airlines and numerous service industries have all invested in sustainable change to minimize health risks and keep travelers safe.  Similar to when the TSA required the removal of shoes following various terrorist attacks, it is expected that travelers will continue to be required to wear masks and take advantage of touchless experiences until the vast majority of the population are vaccinated. 

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