Getting Vaccinated? Go Ahead And Plan Summer Trips, Says Brown University’s Public Health Dean

By summer, every adult will be able to be vaccinated, which will be a gamechanger.

One of the country’s most prominent public health officials thinks the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) got its guidance for vaccinated people close to perfect, though he does have one small quibble.

“I thought it was largely right, if a little bit conservative,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, on a Zoom press briefing this morning.

Dr. Jha told reporters he thinks the guidance on what vaccinated people can do with other vaccinated people is “completely right,” and agreed it was “completely reasonable” to let vaccinated people visit with unvaccinated people who are at low risk of infection.

But he has a “gentle disagreement” with the CDC’s recommendation that vaccinated people need to avoid any unnecessary travel. “I’m not sure that it’s not safe to travel if you’ve been vaccinated,” he said.

Vaccinated grandparents, for example, really want to see their grandkids, “and that requires traveling,” said Dr. Jha. “And the question is: is that unsafe? And I don’t believe it’s unsafe.” Of course, he said, fully vaccinated people should continue wearing face masks and abide by all the current public health measures.

Dr. Jha says the question of whether vaccinated people transmit the virus has largely been answered. “I think we have enough evidence right now to say that these vaccines cut transmission, that vaccinated people really are much less likely to transmit this disease than unvaccinated people,” he said. “We’ve seen that from the clinical data. And my best guess is that transmission is probably going to be reduced by 90%.”

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

While none of the current batch of Covid-19 vaccines will stop viral transmission completely, studies have shown asymptomatic transmission from vaccinated individuals to be low. The latest evidence came in today, when Pfizer announced that real-world data from Israel suggests its Covid-19 vaccine is 94% effective in preventing asymptomatic infections.

As more Americans get vaccinated, Dr. Jha is optimistic that travel will open up in a few short months. “Over the summer, I expect infection numbers to be very, very low. I think absolutely people should assume that travel will be relatively comfortable and safe,” he says.

Last month, Jha told The Atlantic he expects to be able to host 20 or so friends for a Fourth of July barbecue in his backyard, with every adult vaccinated and no one having to wear a mask.

“I expect certainly any adult who wants to be vaccinated will have been vaccinated [by then],” said Dr. Jha. “The challenge is going to be kids — especially younger kids. I believe kids 12 and older probably will be able to get vaccinated at some point over the summer.”

For Americans planning their summer vacations, it will pay to plan and book trips sooner rather than later. Experts predict that travel costs will increase throughout 2021 as the pandemic subsides.

Hopper, the Boston-based airfare forecasting app, expects airfares to rise by 6% on average every month from now until the summer before it levels off. And a pandemic-made shortage of rental cars is fueling a car rental apocalypse with higher prices and sold-out markets.

But travelers may be able to nab a deal with their hotel room. The American Hotel & Lodging Association estimates that half of all U.S. hotel rooms will remain unoccupied in 2021 — and that should translate to deals in many locales. In Hawaii, for example, the average daily room rate in December was down 17.6% from the previous year, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.


I watch trends in travel. Prior to working at Forbes, I was a longtime freelancer who contributed hundreds of articles to Conde Nast Traveler, CNN Travel, Travel +