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Following Higgins' requests for answers, CDC updates guidance on border crossing


Sat, Oct 16th 2021 02:00 pm

Says recipients of mixed-dose & AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines will be accepted as vaccinated for purposes of international travel

√ Updates will allow millions of Canadians to cross US land border beginning Nov. 8

Following a request for clarity by Congressman Brian Higgins, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidance relative to recognizing people as fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the eyes of the U.S. government.

After being closed since March of 2020 due to the pandemic, the White House indicated it will reopen land ports of entry on Nov. 8.

On Oct. 14, Higgins, who serves as co-chair of the Canada-U.S. interparliamentary group and the congressional northern border caucus wrote to the director of the CDC seeking a clear answer on which vaccines the U.S. will accept when the border reopens to fully vaccinated travelers. In his letter, Higgins wrote, “Nearly four million Canadians, equivalent to ten percent of their fully vaccinated population, have received mixed doses of the available mRNA COVID-19 vaccines – this includes the AstraZeneca vaccine. At present, the AstraZeneca vaccine does not appear on the CDC’s list of approved and authorized vaccines for use in the United States and the CDC website recommends against mixing doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.”

Late in the day on Friday, the CDC added an annex to its guidance for fully vaccinated people further describing which vaccines will qualify. It reads, in part, “This guidance applies to COVID-19 vaccines currently approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson [J&J]/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines), and can be applied to COVID-19 vaccines that have been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (such as AstraZeneca/Oxford).”

It goes on to read, “CDC has not recommended the use of heterologous (i.e., mix-and-match) primary series. However, the use of such strategies (including mixing of mRNA, adenoviral, and mRNA plus adenoviral products) is increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the purposes of interpretation of vaccination records, individuals can be considered fully vaccinated ≥2 weeks after receipt of the last dose if they have received any single dose of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO EUL approved single-dose series (i.e., Janssen), or any combination of two doses of an FDA approved/authorized or WHO emergency use listed COVID-19 two-dose series.”

Higgins, who has been pushing the U.S. government to reopen the border, welcomed what his team called “long-overdue progress made this week”: “After months of nothing but silence, finally we have a date for when the border will reopen and some guidance on who will qualify as vaccinated. This should have happened long ago. The people, businesses and communities impacted by this extended shutdown deserved that transparency. Nevertheless, we are incredibly eager to welcome our Canadian friends, family and neighbors back to Western New York. This reunion is long overdue.”

Higgins’ district includes the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. His team noted he “will continue to seek answers to questions related to what the screening process will look like and will advocate for the removal of arduous testing requirements, which he views as redundant for the vaccinated and an obstacle to the mutually beneficial binational exchange between Canada and the United States.”

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