Santa Rosa, CA – November 8, 2021 – People planning to travel and attend gatherings over the upcoming holidays should take steps now to protect themselves from COVID-19 and ensure they have proper documents required by some destinations, airlines and events to prove their vaccination or testing status.
People who are not vaccinated should avoid travel and holiday gatherings, said Sonoma County public health officer Dr. Sundari Mase, citing guidance issued recently by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Unvaccinated people who want to gather for Thanksgiving should get immunized immediately. It takes two weeks to become fully protected against COVID-19 after receiving the single-dose J&J/Janssen vaccine or your second dose of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are issued 21 days apart; doses of the Moderna vaccine are issued 28 days apart.
“There is still time for you to get vaccinated before the holidays, but you need to act quickly,” Mase said. “Getting vaccinated now is the best way to protect you, your family and your friends from becoming infected with COVID-19. We do not want to see another surge in cases like we witnessed last year over the holidays. Now that safe and effective vaccines are widely available, we can prevent the heartbreaking suffering and death that so many endured last year.”
The CDC recommends everyone 5 and older receive a COVID-19 vaccine approved for their age group by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. All three vaccines approved by the FDA are safe and effective, dramatically reducing the risk of serious illness and death.
Last week, children aged 5 to 11 became eligible for a pediatric formulation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, providing families with another tool to protect loved ones over the holidays. Doses for young children are now available in Sonoma County, initially prioritized for populations at greatest risk of complications from COVID-19. To find a dose, parents are encouraged to reach out to their pediatrician or local pharmacy. Vaccination clinics will also be created at schools serving populations without convenient or affordable access to health care. For information, visit the Sonoma County Office of Education website.
Most clinics and pharmacies will accept walk-ups from people 12 and older seeking a first or second dose. Residents can find information about vaccine clinics and how to make appointments through the county’s vaccine clinic page or through myturn.ca.gov. Residents who need help making an appointment are encouraged to call the County COVID-19 hotline at (707) 565-4667.
At all times, unvaccinated people should wear a mask indoors and maintain social distancing of 6 feet when meeting with people outside their immediate family. The mask, which should be at least two-ply and preferably three-ply, should cover your nose and mouth.
Regardless of vaccination status, people should wear a mask while indoors in public places. Everyone, even people who are fully vaccinated, is required to wear a mask on public transportation and follow international travel recommendations.
If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, don’t travel, host or attend a gathering. Get tested if you have symptoms or have had a close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Monitor yourself for symptoms for 14 days after participating in holiday celebrations and activities. Pay special attention from days 3-7 as this is when people are most likely to develop symptoms.
Some destinations and events require a COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination. Research the requirements of your destination or event now to ensure you are prepared. Arriving at a gate without acceptable test results can cost you time and frustration and may result in you missing your flight or event. Not all COVID-19 test providers are approved for travel testing or can guarantee test results in time for your travel or event. Before scheduling your COVID-19 test, check with your test provider to see if they meet the required test result certification and timelines for your travel, destination or event.
CDC guidelines for travel can be viewed here. Other suggestions if you are planning to travel:
Testing to travel
If a COVID-19 test is required by your destination or airline, determine when it needs to be scheduled to meet their requirements, usually 48 or 72 hours before boarding. PCR tests can typically provide results in 24 to 48 hours, but result times vary and some can take up to a week. Antigen tests provide results within 15 minutes but are considered less accurate. Contact your airline or destination to determine what testing is allowed, what documentation of test results is required and learn about onsite testing options. Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule an appointment.
Standard COVID-19 tests in Sonoma County are free and confidential. Information is available at socoemergency.org/test. Some major pharmacies do travel testing for a fee.
Proof of vaccination to travel
Contact your airline or destination to determine if proof of vaccination is required, and, if so, what documentation they will accept.
As soon as possible, obtain a digital copy of your California vaccine record from myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov. If there are problems with the digital vaccine record, they can take two to three weeks to fix. Use the help mechanism at chat.myturn.ca.gov to resolve any issues. You will need to upload an image of your vaccine card and an image of your state-issued ID to use this system.
Keep your vaccine card safe; make copies and save pictures of your card on your cellphone. If you have lost your vaccine card and your digital record gives you an error, ask your primary care provider to provide you with a copy of your immunization record. This document will show all of your vaccinations, not just your COVID-19 vaccination. It is not clear if this document will be sufficient proof of COVID-19 vaccine status for travel, but it may help the state of California resolve problems with your digital vaccine record.
For more information, including the latest vaccine numbers, who’s eligible for a vaccine and how to receive a vaccine, visit SoCoEmergency.org/vaccine, or call 2-1-1.