As the Covid-19 variant known as Omicron begins to spread around the world, so does a new uncertainty. The first case of Omicron in the United States was detected in California on December 1, and the variant has since spread to 20 states (as of December 8, 2021). As news of Omicron’s spread circulates, you, understandably, may be hesitant about traveling for your U.S. clinical experience.
Although early data suggests encouraging signs about the severity of Omicron compared to previous variants such as Delta, there is still much left to be answered about vaccine response to the strain and effects on hospitalization rates.
As you consider your own safety traveling for your U.S. clinical experience, here is what you need to know about Omicron and how the U.S. is responding to help keep you safe.
Aside from newly announced travel bans against eight countries in southern Africa, the U.S. border remains open for international travel. Current travel requirements–announced by the Biden administration last month–necessitate international travelers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and present a negative Covid-19 test result within three days of travel.
The U.S. announced these requirements as a stronger, more targeted approach to stopping travel-based spread of Covid-19 due to its targeting of individual cases.
Testing and Vaccines
In response to the uncertainty around Omicron, the Biden administration announced its plan for combating the spread and keeping U.S. citizens and visitors safe. As part of this plan, the administration has made a notable effort to ramp up testing in the U.S. by providing free at-home testing. Although this plan has been met with some criticism due to the difficulty of receiving reimbursements from private insurers, adding 20,000 free testing sites and distributing free at-home test kids through key community sites will be beneficial for early and isolated detection of Covid-19
In addition to testing, the Biden administration is relying on expanded vaccine access to combat the spread and severity of the Omicron variant. Currently, Covid-19 vaccines are authorized for all U.S. citizens over the age of 5 through Pfizer, those 12 and older through Moderna and Pfizer, and those 18 and older through Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Booster shots are available to those 18 and older who are at least six months out from their initial vaccination series.
Although early data from studies in South African and Germany shows that vaccines will likely be less effective at stopping infections from Omicron, those same studies suggest that vaccines will prevent severe forms of the virus. Additionally, the study in Germany suggests that booster shots will improve effectiveness against infection. While neither of these studies have yet undergone the peer review process, this data does align with preliminary results of a study released by Pfizer on December 8, 2021, that shows a third shot of the Pfizer vaccines produces neutralizing antibodies against Omicron similar to the effectiveness two doses of its vaccine has against earlier variants.
As you consider traveling to the U.S., your safety, the safety of our precepting physicians, and the safety of patients are of our highest regard. At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we updated our clinical experience policy to cover changes due to Covid-19 related issues.
For more about this policy and how it might apply to your travel plans, please reach out to an AMO advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org. For applicants with current reservations, your Coach will be able to answer any questions you may have.
Disclaimer: The above information, as well as any other medical information on AMO’s site, is not intended or implied to be professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nor is it intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a licensed medical provider. All content provided through this website, emails, and social media posts are for general information purposes only. AMO makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained on this website, emails, and social media posts, and such information is subject to change without notice.