Updated 18 February 2022
The Omicron variant has altered the already unstable travel industry, riddled with strict restrictions, mandatory testing, vaccination and quarantine protocols, prompting countries to be more vigilant while dealing with the virus. Several countries have also begun speculating on the need to mandate booster vaccine shots for entry.
Amid the growing concerns over the latest coronavirus strain, will travellers be required to receive a booster shot for travel? Which countries have mandated booster shots for travel and entry? Read on to find out.
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What are booster doses?
Booster doses are an additional dose administered to an individual following a final dose of their vaccine regimen as the immunity protection against the virus wanes over time. A booster COVID dose works as an additional dose that strengthens protection and offers more defensive properties to the immune system to prevent any attacks from the pathogen, or in case, a virus.
In short, booster shots are administered to prime the body’s immune system against the virus it needs to defend against.
Which countries mandate booster doses for entry?
A few countries mentioned below have set an expiry date on the vaccines’ validity, after which travellers entering the country will not be able to enjoy testing and quarantine relaxations available to fully vaccinated travellers.
In line with the new rules from 6 December, vaccination certificates in Austria will only be accepted if they indicate that not more than 9 months had passed from the time when the second vaccine dose was administered.
If travellers can provide proof of a booster shot (after 2 primary vaccine doses) they can travel to Austria without any additional requirements.
Additionally, anyone entering Austria will also require proof of full vaccination (2 jabs), or proof of past infection (the medical document needs to show the date of recovery – (for guests from the UK: an NHS email/text of a positive test is not sufficient). They will also require a negative PCR test valid for 72 hours, or proof of a booster jab (booster is valid from the first day)
Currently, Belgium only consider travellers who had their second dose of vaccine or a dose of Johnson & Johnson less than 270 days ago as “fully-vaccinated”. Otherwise, they will need to take a booster shot to qualify as “fully-vaccinated”.
Effective from 1 March 2022, all travellers who have only received two vaccine dose or one dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccine more than 150 days ago will no longer considered as “fully-vaccinated” in Belgium. They will need an additional proof such as negative COVID-19 test result or recovery certificate to enter some places in Belgium.
As of now, Bulgaria will need incoming travellers who have received their second vaccine dose more than 270 days ago will need to present a proof of an additional booster dose in order to enter Bulgaria without having to put up with their travel requirements, such as testing or isolation.
You can travel to Croatia if you present a vaccine certificate, proving that you have received two doses of vaccine used in the EU Member States (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Gamaleya, Sinopharm, Novavax) not older than 365 days, or a certificate that they have received one dose of the vaccine if the vaccine is administered in a single dose (Janssen/Johnson&Johnson) not older than 365 days, provided that 14 days have passed since they received the single dose. This means that to retain the status of being fully vaccinated, travellers will need to take booster shots after a year has lapsed since their last dose of vaccine. WHO-approved vaccines are also accepted in Croatia.
You won’t need to present a negative PCR test nor follow a quarantine if you are fully vaccinated.
All incoming travellers to Czech Republic who have got their booster vaccine will be exempt from pre-testing requirements.
All incoming travellers will need to get a booster dose if they received the second dose more than 270 days before they arrive to Denmark.
Estonia no longer considered a traveller as “fully-vaccinated” if they have received their second dose more than one year ago. They must take their “booster shot” in order to be considered “fully-vaccinated” and to be exempt from the travel restrictions such as isolation and testing upon their arrival.
The French Government currently recognizes vaccines approved by the WHO and EMA (Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson). Travellers above 65 years and those vaccinated with Janssen vaccine will need to present proof of a booster vaccine in order to extend their health pass. Travellers over 16 years can show the proof of booster dose via a health pass in France.
Anyone aged 12 years above must therefore present one of the following 3 health documents:
- proof of full vaccination (plus the necessary time after the final dose);
- a negative PCR or lateral flow test result (less than 24 hours old);
- a positive PCR or lateral flow test result that shows recovery from COVID-19 (at least 11 days old and less than 6 months old).
Due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, Greece has increased its COVID-19 restrictions while making vaccine passports mandatory for certain indoor spaces such as restaurants, bars, and cafes. Travel to Greece may require individuals to undertake a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival.
Anyone over the age of 60 will now be required to get their COVID-19 booster dose to qualify for the vaccine passport. Booster shots are also mandatory for travellers who wish to use the EU’s digital health pass in the future.
Starting 15 February, travellers to Greece should get administered a booster shot if it’s been four months or more since they completed their original vaccine series.
For residents, Greece will be administering booster shots to all adults three months after they have had their initial vaccine doses or tested positive for COVID-19. Vaccine certificates will be valid for seven months after the booster shot, and those who don’t get the third dose would be considered unvaccinated.
Iceland now allows vaccinated travellers to enter without having to put up with their travel restrictions. Although, they are required to get the third booster if they have passed 270 days after their second dose.
They also require all the travellers to present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours before their arrival to Iceland regardless of their vaccination status. The pre-arrival test is exempted for travellers who have had COVID-19 and recovered within the last 180 days.
Ireland will not be accepting vaccine certificates for primary doses that were administered more than 9 months ago, which means travellers will need to get a booster shot to be considered as fully vaccinated. Travellers without proof of vaccination or proof of COVID-19 recovery (in the last 6 months); must present a pre-departure negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before arriving in Ireland.
The government of Ireland also accepts the EU Digital COVID certificate for travel and as evidence of vaccination, boosters, recovery from COVID-19 infection and PCR tests.
Israel was one of the first countries to mandate the use of vaccine boosters. International travellers coming to Israel must have their booster dose if 180 days have passed since they got their second dose.
All vaccinated international travellers must also present documentation of a COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours or a quick antigen test within 24 hours before their flight, and be tested again with a PCR test upon arrival.
Travellers to Kuwait will not be considered fully vaccinated if more than nine months had passed since their second vaccination and they had not received a third booster dose.
Kuwait will also require travellers to present a negative PCR test for the coronavirus within 72 hours of their arrival. If a passenger fails to provide a PCR test report or if they have not received a booster shot, they will not be granted entry into the country.
If travellers have completed their second dose more than 270 days ago, they will need to take a booster shot and present the proof in order to enter Latvia.
For travellers who are not fully-vaccinated, they will need to show proof of negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours or an antigen test taken no more than 48 hours before their arrival to Latvia.
Incoming travellers to Lebanon are exempt from testing requirements if they have received the second or booster dose within the past six months.
The Maui County Public Health Emergency Rules state that travellers will be considered as ‘fully-vaccinated’ if they have taken the third booster. It is still unknown if the Hawaii government will adopt this rule for all of their islands or not. As of now, all travellers coming to Maui will have to present a vaccine certificate or PCR test no older than 48 hours before their arrival.
Travellers to Madeira will need to have a full course of vaccine no more than 270 days ago or booster vaccine at least 14 days before their arrival.
If you are vaccinated (including booster dose) not more than 6 months ago, you will be exempt from the pre-arrival testing requirements which is to bring a proof of a negative PCR test taken no more than 72 hours or an antigen test taken no more than 48 hours before your arrival.
In the Netherlands, a vaccination certificate is valid:
- 14 days after receiving the second dose of Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca; or
- 28 days after receiving one dose of the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine.
The Netherlands has shortened the validity of vaccination certificates for travellers. Effective February 2022, only those who have taken their vaccine dose within the last nine months will be allowed to enter the country; they will not be required to follow strict entry rules as long as there are no testing requirements or other national regulations imposed by the government.
Travellers from ‘high-risk’ countries will need to undergo 10 days of quarantine if they have not received their booster shot within the past 270 days. Those who have received their booster shot at least 7 days before travelling to the Netherlands are not required to self-quarantine on arrival.
For more details, you may view the Netherlands travel checklist.
All arrivals to Saudi Arabia, to be considered fully vaccinated are required to obtain and present proof of vaccination (vaccine certificates for COVID 19) with one of the following approved vaccines:
- Pfizer BioNTech or Comirnaty
- Oxford AstraZeneca: Covishield or Vaxzevria
- Moderna or Spikevax
- Johnson & Johnson
- Sputnik V
Travellers vaccinated with Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines will be allowed entry into the kingdom only when a booster shot from one of the four recognized vaccines has been administered.
Starting from February 1st 2022, international travellers will be required to show proof of the vaccine booster that they got after 270 days since their last second dose.
If travellers just got their booster dose, they need to wait at least 14 days before they can enter Spain.
Travellers will be considered fully vaccinated if they have received two doses of Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/ Covishield, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Covaxin or one dose of Janssen at least 2 weeks before they arrive in Singapore.
Starting 14 February 2022, individuals 18 years or older must take their booster dose within 270 days of completing their primary vaccination series. Getting a booster shot in addition to the primary doses will qualify as fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
In Switzerland, a booster shot of Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech is recommended to all individuals over 16 years, four months after administering the primary vaccination course. Following are the approved vaccines in Switzerland:
- Pfizer BioNTech or Comirnaty
- Oxford AstraZeneca: Covishield or Vaxzevria
- Moderna or Spikevax
- Sinovac: CoronaVac
- Johnson & Johnson (1 dose)
Those who wish to travel to Switzerland will not be considered fully vaccinated after 365 days of taking their second vaccine dose. Travellers will still be able to visit the destination without a Swiss vaccine passport but cannot enter public indoor spaces.
UAE – Abu Dhabi
As per the new directives, vaccinated travellers must present proof of full vaccination (double shot) and present a negative PCR test result obtained within the last 14 days, or a pre-departure negative PCR test obtained within 48 hours of travel. Meanwhile, unvaccinated visitors can enter with a negative PCR test obtained within the last 96 hours.
Following are the vaccines that have been approved by the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MOHAP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the Emirates:
- Oxford/AstraZeneca & Covishield
- Sputnik V
- Sputnik Light
Residents and citizens of Abu Dhabi who wish to maintain the green pass on the Al Hosn mobile app will also need to get their booster doses at the earliest. A ‘green pass’ can be activated if an individual is fully vaccinated and has a negative PCR test result undertaken within the last 14 days.
Which countries mandate booster doses for travelling abroad?
Following is the list of a few countries that mandate their residents to receive the booster dose before travelling abroad:
The United Arab Emirates
All unvaccinated UAE citizens are banned from travelling to other countries. To obtain the status of ‘fully vaccinated’ the UAE residents are now additionally required to get the booster dose. Hence, travel will be banned for citizens not receiving the Covid-19 booster dose.
The travel ban does not apply to citizens travelling for medical and treatment purposes, humanitarian cases and individuals who are medically exempted from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. Fully vaccinated UAE citizens will also need to get the COVID-19 booster dose.
#NCEMA and @MoFAICUAE: Ban on Travel on UAE citizens unvaccinated with #Covid19 vaccine, starting Jan 10, 2022, with a requirement to obtain the booster dose for the fully vaccinated. With an exemption for medically exempted from taking the vaccine, humanitarian & treatment cases pic.twitter.com/zUw1FoSLBt
— NCEMA UAE (@NCEMAUAE) January 1, 2022
Saudi Arabia has mandated the booster dose for its citizens who wish to travel outside the Kingdom for all journeys, starting 9 February 2022. The booster dose is available for those who have a gap of three months from their second dose.
Residents, who are younger than 16 years are exempt from this rule. Similarly, those who appear under the exempt category on the Tawakkalna application are also not required to get a booster dose for travel.
As stated by authorities earlier, Kuwaiti citizens who have been vaccinated over nine months ago and have not received a booster dose are banned from travelling abroad. Hence, Kuwait mandates its citizens wishing to travel abroad to mandatorily receive the Covid-19 vaccine booster dose.
Will more countries mandate booster doses soon?
Countries across the globe are closely monitoring the need to mandate booster shots, based on vaccine availability and the urgency to authorise booster shots, after closely monitoring the severity of variants.
If you are travelling to any EU nation, there is no validity period for booster shots, hence, those who have had three vaccine doses of Pfizer, or two of Janssen, can travel to all countries in the EU indefinitely as of now.
Findings from Omicron cases in South Africa have suggested that the variant of concern had significantly lowered the level of antibody protection provided by the Pfizer vaccine. However, the study also revealed that individuals who had recovered from the infection and were administered a booster shot would likely be more protected from severe disease.
Experts thus concluded that “previous infection, followed by vaccination – or likely a booster – is probably protective against omicron, and almost certainly against severe disease.”
While nothing is certain as of yet, it’s probably a good idea to consider getting yourself a third jab for your travels as a growing number of countries are actively considering booster shots as a mandate for entry.