By Miriam Raftery
May 19, 2021 (San Diego) – With over two-thirds of Californians now at least partially vaccinated and half fully vaccinated, many people are looking forward to resuming normal activities. But if you haven’t had the COVID-19 vaccine, you may be surprised to learn that you won’t be allowed to go many places.
These include all cruise ships, many colleges and universities, and some sports arenas and stadiums. Nursing homes and other senior care facilities may require vaccinations before admitting new patients or indoor visitors. Some employers are also requiring vaccines. Even some event planners are requiring guests to be vaccinated to attend functions such as weddings.
Not getting the vaccine is a personal choice, but a growing number of places are opting to protect their customers, workers or patients by banning the unvaccinated. Others are allowing unvaccinated people only if they can pass a COVID test. But who really wants to have your nose swabbed every time you go to a Padres game? Similarly, some places are allowing unvaccinated travelers – but only if you both pass a COVID test and quarantine in your hotel room for a number of days after arriving, which can spoil vacation plans unless you have an extended trip.
So where can’t you go, as of now, if you’re not vaccinated?
Major colleges and universities
At least 30 major U.S. colleges and universities have made COVID vaccines mandatory for students for fall 2021, including the University of California, California State University, and such prestigious institutions as Yale and Stanford, CNBC reports.
The cruise industry was hit hard by COVID; outbreaks stranded some ships at sea for weeks or even months, with ports refusing entry to ships with infected passengers or crew members. Cruise ships remained grounded for many months and are now resuming---but every cruise line is now requiring COVID-19 vaccinations of all passengers and crew members, Travel and Leisure reports. This includes major ocean-going cruise lines such as Carnival, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean as well as U.S. river cruise ships such as those run by American Cruise Lines and the American Queen Steamboat Company on the Mississippi.
Many foreign countries
At least a dozen nations have reopened to U.S. travelers – but only those who are vaccinated. The list includes Anguilla, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Ecuador, Estonia, Republic of Georgia, Grenada, Guatemala, Iceland, Israel, Montenegro, Nepal, Seychelles and Tahiti.
In addition, Europe plans to reopen to vaccinated travelers this summer, including popular destinations such as France and Spain, according to Afar Magazine.
Some other countries are requiring foreign visitors to quarantine, but will waive that requirement for those providing proof of vaccinations.
It should be noted that requiring vaccinations of travelers is nothing new; many countries have long required visitors to be vaccinated against a variety of diseases ranging from measles to Yellow Fever.
Even some U.S. destinations are encouraging vaccines to avoid hassles. Hawaii will waive its self-quarantine requirements and pre-travel testing for those who are vaccinated. Massachusetts requires tourists and returning residents to undergo a mandatory quarantine unless they’ve been fully vaccinated or show proof that they’ve had COVID within the past 90 days, Forbes reports.
Stadiums for sports events and concerts
CBS News reports that some sports arenas and stadiums in the U.S. are now requiring proof of vaccination for large, crowded events such as concerts or sports. For instance, Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, and Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, now require digital proof of vaccination.
But others, such as Petco Park in San Diego, will allow unvaccinated people inside if they pass a COVID test. But do you really want to get your nose swabbed every time you go to a Padres game? Rolling up your sleeve to get the vaccine can not only protect your health, but also save you inconvenience if you plan to go often to large sporting events or musical performances.
Senior care facilities
COVID-19 devastated seniors in nursing homes, which had the highest death rates across the U.S. of any population sector. As a result, senior care facilities such as retirement centers, nursing homes and board and care facilities shut down to all visitors for most of the past year.
Fortunately, the Centers for Disease Control has issued new guidelines that now allow in-person visits for fully vaccinated people, Very Well Health details. So if your loved one is in a care facility or at risk of winding up there, you may wish to get vaccinated, realizing that it takes several weeks to develop full immunities. There is an exception for dying patients, or those whose emotional wellbeing is at stake; they are allowed to see unvaccinated family members.
Some, but not all, senior facilities will allow unvaccinated people to visit, but only outdoors, with precautions such as plexiglass barriers and masks, but these can make it difficult for some seniors to see and hear their guests.
Many, though not all, nursing homes and other senor care facilities are now refusing to admit new patients unless they have been vaccinated. This reporter recently had to find a care facility for her mother, and every facility she contacted had this requirement. This is a critical point to consider, since the need for skilled nursing care can arise suddenly after a serious fall, stroke or other medical emergency.
While you have a right to refuse to be vaccinated, senior care facilities have the right to refuse to admit you, in order to protect other vulnerable residents, with very limited exceptions.
Weddings and other private events may require vaccines
Some private event planners are choosing to keep guests safe by requiring proof of vaccination – even in areas where the law doesn’t currently require this.
Wedding Wire suggests that couples require either proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test, but that if anyone in the wedding party or immediate family is severely immune compromised or fighting cancer, it’s acceptable to require that all guests be vaccinated. Requiring vaccines may also occur at destination weddings in places with high rates of COVID.
Some other event organizers, such as charities holding fundraising galas, are also limiting some functions to vaccinated guests only, though other organizations are requiring COVID testing or simply requiring unvaccinated individuals to wear masks instead, depending on state and local health requirements.
Some employers are requiring vaccines – and more may soon do so
If you’re unvaccinated, you could find it harder to find work in some sectors, or even lose your job.
Employers are allowed to require workers to be vaccinated, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in December. The only exceptions are for a physical disability that prevents vaccination (including vaccine allergies) and sincere religious objections. See details in the JD Supra Legal Report.
Delta Airlines recently announced that it is requiring vaccinations for all flight crew members, ABC News reports. The Broadway musical “Hamilton” is requiring all performers to be vaccinated before the show reopens this fall. Some hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings are requiring workers to be vaccinated.
Other employers are offering incentives, rather than requirements, to coax hesitant workers to get vaccinated and protect their coworkers from potential exposure to COVID.
Once the FDA rules COVID vaccines are no longer considered experimental, many more employers are likely to begin requiring that workers be vaccinated, especially in high-risk settings such as restaurants, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, and schools.
Other restrictions on the unvaccinated
If you want to go shopping, see a movie, workout at the gym, enter a local business or participate in other activities without wearing a mask, you’ll need to be vaccinated for the foreseeable future in California.
Both the state and county plan to lift mask mandates on June 15th for vaccinated individuals, but unvaccinated people are expected to still wear masks. While it’s not clear how many businesses may ask for proof of vaccination from unmasked persons, you can avoid potential hassles by either getting vaccinated or committing to continue wearing a mask as long as health regulations require doing so.
How do you prove vaccine status?
One obstacle is that different places are requiring different forms of proof. It’s a good idea to carry your CDC vaccination card with you in a clear protective holder available at office supply stores, and take a photo of it to carry on your phone. There are draft proposals in the works for privately developed healthcare apps to store your vaccine status, perhaps in partnership with companies such as CLEAR Health Pass or IBM’s Digital Health Pass, WeRaveYou reports.
While some countries provide vaccine passports for their residents, the U.S. thus far has not done so.
Last month, President Joe Biden and his administration said the country has no plans to introduce a universal vaccine passport system as part of an effort to protect the privacy and rights of citizens.
But that could change in the face of growing public opinion favoring development of a vaccine passport to help reopen international travel and more.
Travel Pulse reports that a new poll conducted by Ipsos Survey found that 61 percent of U.S. citizens said vaccine passports would be effective in making travel and large events safe. Worldwide, 72 percent favor vaccine passports, with support much higher in some parts of the world –including 90 percent in Peru and 78 percent in Canada.
MORE FACTS TO CONSIDER WHEN DECIDING WHETHER TO GET VACCINATED
How safe are the vaccines? How does the risk compare to risk from COVID?
Over 250 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given in the U.S. Overall, the COVID vaccine is among the safest on record.
While nothing is risk free, only two serious effects have been documented from COVID vaccines used in the U.S. Both are very rare. One is severe allergic reaction, thought this is treatable for full recovery. The other is a serious type of blood clot that occurred only with Johnson & Johnson vaccines, not Pfizer or Moderna. Only 7 out of 1 million people had the clotting issue.
It is common to expect minor side effects particularly after the second vaccine with Pfizer and Moderna, such as fever, aches and a sore arm that typically last for a day or two. For information on COVID-19 and the vaccine, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.
It’s important to weigh the known risks of the vaccine against the known risks of COVID-19. Over 560,000 Americans have died of COVID. If you get COVID, the odds of dying are about 1 in 100, but significantly higher if you are older or have underlying conditions.
If you go on a ventilator with COVID, the odds of survival are only about 1 to 5 percent, depending on the hospital, according to interviews this reporter has done with doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals working with COVID-19 patients in hospital ICU units. In addition, ,any survivors have permanent long-term debilities such as damage to lungs, strokes, heart or brain damage.
The vaccines are nearly 100% effective at preventing serious cases or death from COVID-19. Not only do the vaccines protect your own health, but also the health of others around you who may be more vulnerable if they contract COVID.
While younger, healthier people are less apt to have a serious case of COVID, an unvaccinated young person can transmit COVID to others. This reporter has a family member who died of COVID, leaving behind five children, because his coworker brought unmasked, unvaccinated teens into the workplace. They didn’t yet have symptoms and didn’t know they had COVID. How would you feel if someone you loved died of COVID that could have been prevented if you’d been vaccinated?
Thanks to vaccines, San Diego County’s case rate has plummeted and the rate of positive test results for COVID-19 has dropped to 1%. San Diego County has a goal to vaccinate 75% of those eligible (age 12 and up). So far, 64% of those are fully vaccinated and 95% have had at least one dose.
What if I already had COVID?
Studies have found that those who had COVID vary in how long their immunity lasts. Some have contracted COVID again within a couple of months, while others still had antibodies up to eight months later.
Since you can get COVID a second time, the safest protection against this is to get the vaccine. The CDC advises that if you were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, however, you should wait 90 days before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Where can I get a vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccines are FREE and available to anyone age 12 and up, whether or not you have insurance. Parental consent is required for minors.
To find a free vaccine location go to www.sandiegocounty.gov and click the COVID-19 link (top link under Popular Services).
The site lists county-run sites and also private organizations offering free vaccines including Albertsons, Costco, CVS, Family Health Centers, Ralphs, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart, etc.
Although the County does not have vaccine clinics in most rural or mountain areas, many of these private companies do offer vaccines in East County’s remote locations – and the vaccines are still free for everyone.
Miriam Raftery, editor and founder of East County Magazine, has over 35 years of journalism experience. She has won more than 350 journalism awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, San Diego Press Club, and the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Her honors include the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism and three James Julian awards for public interest reporting from SPJ’s San Diego chapter. She has received top honors for investigative journalism, multicultural reporting, coverage of immigrant and refugee issues, politics, breaking news and more. Thousands of her articles have appeared in national and regional publications.
East County Magazine gratefully acknowledges the Facebook Journalism Project for its COVID-19 Relief Fund grant to support our local news reporting including impacts on vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more: #FacebookJournalismProject and https://www.facebook.com/fbjournalismproject/.
You can donate to support our local journalism efforts during the pandemic at https://www.EastCountyMedia.org/donate.