Travel after vaccination?

Would it be safe for me to travel to see my parents after getting both doses of one of the vaccines? My parents are in their 80s and the travel requires an airline flight (meaning time spent in two airports).

Good idea? Bad idea?

Are all three of you fully vaccinated in this scenario?

So far just me. But they may be able to soon.

Until all three of you are vaccinated, I’d consider it a bad idea. I’m not sure it’s a great idea even if you are, but it’s a completely different question at that point. I’m close to having to make a similar decision (we normally visit my in-laws at least twice a year, but it’s now approaching the 1.5 year mark), but will definitely be waiting until we are all vaccinated. At that point, we’ll see where everything else stands, unless a scientific consensus is reached that the vaccinated aren’t infectious.

I usually visit my parents twice a year (Christmas holidays and then sometime over the summer) and haven’t been back since early January 2020.

The vaccine trials tested preventing symptomatic infection. They may prevent infection altogether, but that wasn’t measured, so we don’t know for sure. Thus, it could be possible that you could still catch an asymptomatic infection, which could then be spread to someone unvaccinated.

Theoretically my parents could be vaccinated by the end of January, latest February.

I expect I probably that I won’t get vaccinated until June or so. I hope by then that things are settled enough that I can visit them this fall.

I also expect that we have a lot more data about the efficacy of the vaccination against both symptomatic and asymptomatic infection.

Even if I could get vaccinated by end of January, I would still wait for more people to get vaccinated to finally break the chain of infection.

As others have said, we don’t yet have data on how effective the vaccines are are preventing transmission from a vaccinated person to others. A priori, the vaccines are very likely to reduce transmission to some degree; but unlikely to reduce transmission as much as the >90% efficacy level for protection against disease.

So with community spread so high at the moment, I think you do still run a significant risk of the horrific outcome of being responsible for infecting your parents. Presumably their age group should be vaccinated within a couple of months at most? I would certainly wait at least until they are vaccinated.

This is exactly correct. The evidence to date does not indicate that any of the vaccines available, or inoculation by exposure to the actual virus provides sterilizing immunity (e.g. eliminates any chance of viral shedding) and give the number of people experiencing reinfection (or possibly resurgence of latent residual virus), it is all but certain that the immune response is incomplete at halting infection. Even so, vaccination does appear to provide significant protection from severe effects of the virus and sequelae from post-infection immune response, but only for those who are vaccinated.

There is, of course, the confounding issue of new variants (the B.1.1.7 “Kent” mutation, 501.V2 “South Africa” mutation, and the “Cluster 5” mutations that jumped to mink and then backspilled to humans), all of which appear to be more transmissible and to which variation in vaccine immune response is unknown (e.g. if they are just variants or developed into distinct strains requiring separate inoculations). Until more is known about the transmissibility, virulence, and naive and inoculated immune response to these new variants as well as the overall potential for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to undergo spontaneous mutation producing distinct strains, it would serve well to remain cautious about close contact scenarios like airline travel.


Yes, obviously that is the outcome I want to avoid, although it’s been more than a year and I’d like to see them. Plus I need a break from this job, which I’m getting very tired of.

Thanks all for the comments. I’ll wait a few more months, until after they are vaccinated (though their allergies may complicate things) and more data is available, and then think again about it.

What, you worry?