Visitors cross the International Rainbow Bridge connecting Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Niagara Falls, Ont., Wednesday. The United States border will reopen to non-essential travel in November to fully vaccinated Canadians after a record long closure due to concerns over COVID-19. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

Visitors cross the International Rainbow Bridge connecting Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Niagara Falls, Ont., Wednesday. The United States border will reopen to non-essential travel in November to fully vaccinated Canadians after a record long closure due to concerns over COVID-19. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

CDC says people with mixed-dose COVID-19 vaccinations will be eligible to enter U.S.

CDC says people with mixed-dose COVID-19 vaccinations will be eligible to enter U.S.

WASHINGTON — It’s the news nearly four million Canadians have been waiting to hear: people who received doses of two different COVID-19 vaccines will qualify as fully vaccinated when the U.S. reopens its land borders to non-essential travel next month.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made the announcement late Friday, capping a whirlwind week of developments signalling the imminent end of 19 months of pandemic-induced North American travel restrictions.

People with “any combination” of two doses of a vaccine approved by either the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization “are considered fully vaccinated,” the agency said in a statement.

“While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccine in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for the interpretation of vaccine records.”

The news also confirms what the White House acknowledged earlier Friday would be a likely development: that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, approved by the WHO but not the FDA, would be deemed acceptable.

The CDC had already given the green light to overseas travellers who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, but until Friday had not expressly confirmed the same policy for those crossing into the U.S. by land.

Earlier in the day, White House officials said the new rules would go into effect Nov. 8, both at the land borders and for people arriving from a number of overseas countries where travel to the U.S. has been banned since March 2020.

The U.S. won’t ask its forthcoming visitors to submit to a COVID-19 test prior to departure, unlike Canada, which requires travellers to show proof of a recent negative test — a costly condition of entry that runs about $200 a pop.

New York congressman Brian Higgins, who has been relentlessly campaigning against the travel restrictions for months, is urging the federal government in Ottawa to reconsider that rule.

“I think that the U.S. decision to allow Canadians coming into the United States without a test again underscores the potency of the vaccine,” Higgins said in an interview Friday.

“I would like to see that reciprocated by our Canadian neighbours.”

The Nov. 8 start date comes a full three months after Canada initially began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents back across the border in August.

“It will be what we make of it, and I’m happy that people can now be reunited with loved ones and all those other issues,” Higgins said.

“But the fact of the matter is, the U.S. border to our Canadian neighbours should have been opened months ago.”

The U.S. Travel Association has estimated the Mexican and Canadian border closures have been costing American businesses $1.5 billion in travel exports — domestic spending by foreign visitors — every month.

As for the test requirement, public health officials in Canada made it clear Friday it’s not going away any time soon.

“We’re in a situation in Canada where our health systems are still very fragile,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.

“We need to still be very vigilant and careful at this point, but we will have ongoing discussions with the CDC and the United States to see what is reasonable in the trajectory going forward.”

Coronavirus