With the news that the Canadian land border is opening to American tourists for the first time since March 2020 on August 9, 2021, there have been calls for reciprocation, to allow vaccinated Canadians to cross to the US for non-essential travel. However, mixed messaging with respect to vaccination doses is continuing to create confusion for Canadians looking to vacation abroad.

Mixed Vaccine Doses Cause Confusion for some Travellers

Canadians looking to travel might assume they will be okay to do so as long as they are fully vaccinated. However, this is proving not to be the case in some locations. All countries can set their own rules as to who they allow through their borders, and as Canadians are finding out first hand, not all COVID-19 vaccines are considered equal by many of the destinations Canadians want to visit.

Some countries do not recognize those with mixed doses of the COVID-19 vaccines as being fully vaccinated, creating a situation where Canadians with mixed doses will not be able to travel to those countries. Many Canadians fall into this category, especially after people who had received initial doses of Pfizer or AstraZeneca were encouraged to get their second dose with a different brand, due to shortages or changes in public health policies.

Policies Differ Drastically Depending on Destination

Vaccine policy is different around the world. For example, Barbados is accepting travellers with mixed doses, whereas Trinidad and Tobago are not recognizing people with a mix of Moderna and Pfizer as being fully vaccinated. More pressing for Canadians is the United States’ stance on mixed doses. Currently, the United States does not approve of mixing COVID-19 vaccines. According to a representative from the Center for Disease Control, in most cases they do not see having mixed doses as being comparable to being vaccinated with the same dose twice. This policy could impact Canadians who seek to travel to the United States across the land border once it opens to non-essential travel. Currently, the mixed dose issue will not impact Canadians who want to travel to the United States by air as all that is required to travel by air to the Untied States is a negative COVID-19 test. 

Canadians who wish to travel to Europe may encounter similar issues, as several European countries do not recognize the COVISHIELD AstraZeneca vaccine, even though they recognize the European manufactured version of the AstraZeneca vaccine. More than 80,000 Canadians have received COVISHIELD, so unless the policy is changed or they receive another vaccine, they will be unable to travel to certain countries. More countries have been recognizing the COVIDSHIELD vaccine as legitimate which bodes well, but again, each country has some level of control on policy at their own borders, so there is no guarantee that all of them will recognize the vaccine.

The Canadian government says it has been working with other countries to resolve this difficult situation. There is also some expectation that the United States will eventually recognize people with mixed doses as fully vaccinated. Further, the possibility of a third vaccine to remedy this issue is another possible solution, as Quebec has stated it will offer a third vaccine to those who have essential travel planned to another country who would otherwise not have recognized their mixed dose status.

Overall, this is a frustrating situation for Canadians as the world is opening up to travel again and many Canadians who have followed Canadian vaccination guidelines may still face restrictions. If you are planning to travel, make sure that the country you are planning to travel to will accept you as fully vaccinated based on the vaccine doses you have received.

Border Strike Looming

Those looking to enter Canada by land or air will likely be facing long delays soon. Last week we wrote about the possibility of a Canada Border Services Agency (“CBSA”) strike and the potential impact it would have. Now, as of August 6, there is no agreement between the border officers and the federal government, and the border officers have officially have begun work-to-rule. Travellers can expect long delays at both airports and land border crossings as a result of the friction between the union and the federal government. So, if you are planning on travelling to Canada, you may want to account for the extra time that will be spent at the border as a result of the ongoing conflict.

Contact Garson Immigration Law in Toronto for Ongoing Immigration and Travel Guidance

Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We successfully guide clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of COVID-19. We will work to find an effective solution for your individual immigration needs and ensure you are positioned for success with respect to your application. 

The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.

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