Will We Have To Vaccinate To Travel?

Will airlines require vaccination to board a flight? 

Inoculation against coronavirus isn’t yet widely available, so no travel company or country is yet insisting on vaccination in order to travel. But in future, some airlines are likely to only let you board the plane if you can prove you’ve been vaccinated against coronavirus. Australian airline Qantas, for example, has already said it will be changing its terms and conditions to make this a requirement for all international passengers. 

However, some short-haul European carriers appear unlikely to introduce similar measures. Ryanair, easyJet and Aer Lingus will not introduce mandatory vaccinations for passengers, it has been reported, with Aer Lingus instead calling for rapid testing. However, if European countries introduce a requirement to be vaccinated, airlines may check passengers’ right to entry before boarding the plane. This has already happened in 2020 with testing. For some countries, airlines have been required to check if a passenger has taken the required test, before boarding. 

Will cruise lines require vaccination? 

Cruise lines Celebrity and Royal Caribbean told us: ‘Guests must ensure they are medically and physically fit for travel…in many cases inoculations are recommended, but in some circumstances, they are required.’ That’s not definitive, but does suggest that mandatory vaccines are possible. Cruises that have restarted have already insisted passengers take a test before boarding and once on board. 

Vaccine checks at borders? 

Some countries already refuse entry to people who can’t prove they’ve been vaccinated for yellow fever, for example, so we could see similar restrictions for people who haven’t had coronavirus jabs. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has already said the jab will be ‘as mandatory as you can possibly make it’ for Australians, so it’s feasible that visitors to Australia will need to prove they’ve been vaccinated in future. 

What if I don’t have the vaccine?

If compulsory vaccinations are introduced at your destination, details should be listed on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website. 

Under the Package Travel Regulations, travel companies (including cruise liners) are required by law to tell you about the health and safety requirements at your destination. But they aren’t required to offer you a refund if you book, and subsequently refuse the vaccine. If there’s a medical reason for doing so and you have evidence of this from your doctor, you may still be allowed into the country. For yellow fever, for example, GPs can issue a medical exemption form that’s typically accepted. But if you choose not to have the vaccine, whether on medical grounds or for another reason, and decide not to go on the holiday as a result, this is likely to be considered ‘disinclination to travel’, and standard terms and conditions apply if you choose to cancel. No travel insurance policy covers disinclination to travel, so if vaccines become mandatory at your destination, you won’t be able to claim back the costs of cancelling your holiday if you decide not to go. 

Refusing a vaccine could also affect your emergency medical cover. Travel insurance policies sometimes contain exclusions relating to vaccinations. That means if you visit a country without getting the NHS-recommended inoculations, for example, you may not be covered if you end up getting a disease the vaccine would have protected against. As far as we’re aware, no similar exclusions relating to the coronavirus vaccine have yet been added to travel insurance policies. But it’s something we could see in the coming weeks and months, as many travel insurers do now include cover for catching coronavirus while on holiday.