COVID Vaccination FAQs

Vaccines/Testing

Does someone need to have had a booster to be considered fully vaccinated?

Click to Open

The definition of fully vaccinated is evolving and countries are adapting their requirements. For example, the European Union has proposed all vaccine certificates, including the CDC vaccine card from the U.S., have a validity of 270 days (roughly 9 months). So, in some locations, if 270 days have elapsed since your last shot, and you have not yet had your booster, you will not be considered fully vaccinated.

For spring 2022, boosters are highly encouraged for all students 18 years of age and older. It is likely that CIEE will be updating our definition of fully vaccinated soon to include a booster shot for summer and fall 2022. However, the U.S. CDC has yet to update its definition of fully vaccinated to include a booster shot.

Are boosters available abroad?

Click to Open

We recommend all CIEE students get a COVID-19 vaccine booster prior to departure if it has been more than two months since their single dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccine or more than six months since their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Students should not rely on being able to get booster shots abroad as this is far from certain in most cases.

What if a student is not eligible for a booster before departure? Will they be able to enter the country of their program?

Click to Open

If a student got their second Pfizer or Moderna shot less than six months before departure, they will not be eligible for a booster until after their departure. In this situation – particularly if a booster is required to be considered fully vaccinated in the host country –  the student should proactively discuss the situation with CIEE. Our local staff can help the student obtain a needed booster abroad if it is available to them. However, boosters are not necessarily readily available depending on the country.

Does CIEE operate in places with extremely low vaccination rates?

Click to Open

Yes, but our bi-weekly Health Risk Index (HRI) incorporates vaccination rates into the score that creates a data point for us to understand the relative safety of a particular location. If there is a low vaccination rate, the country score will be negatively affected and give us insight about the relative safety of a program.  It should also be noted that CIEE resumed operations with 1,000+ participants in Fall 2020, before any vaccines were available. Our COVID-19 prevention protocols have kept up with, and in some cases even anticipated, the evolving science to keep our students healthy and safe.   

If a student can't be vaccinated because they have a medical exemption, will they not be accepted to CIEE programs?

Click to Open

We have a process for requesting a medical exemption if needed. More details are in our Vaccination Policy. Remember, however, that a CIEE exemption will never override a country’s immigration policies which are always primary to a student’s ability to enter any country (including in transit). Additionally, unvaccinated students should expect major limitations to daily life abroad which may be different than at home or school - and depending on the severity of these limitations, an exemption may not be feasible as a participant’s program would be too severely impacted. 

What covid vaccine/testing regimine (which test and how long before travel) is required for international travel? Is a flu shot required?

Click to Open

All CIEE students as of January 1 must provide proof of full vaccination (two doses Pfizer and Moderna, one dose of Johnson and Johnson). However, it is strongly encouraged that student eligible for their booster obtain one before departure and keep all documentation as it will likely be asked for by airlines and/or immigration officials. Flu shots are not currently required. As for testing, each airline and country (as well as transiting countries) have their own policies. We will continue to point students to resources so this is made clear in the weeks leading up to departure.  

Travel Advisories

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON TRAVEL TO COUNTRIES WITH A LEVEL 4 TRAVEL ADVISORY?

Click to Open

Part of the purpose of CIEE's weekly Health Risk Index (HRI) is to create a more nuanced data point to reference that takes into context the various dynamics of operating safe programs. For example, a country's ability to have a fully functioning healthcare system that allows for "regular" emergencies is an important factor that we consider when evaluating risk. Thus, hospitalizations are weighted heavily in our calculations. In and of itself, a level 4 designation is not a "trip wire" for suspension of a CIEE program. Additionally, the US CDC COVID Level 1-4 system only measures case numbers.  They do not consider disease severity, hospitalizations, positivity rates, increasing or decreasing waves, public health measures, public health capacity, or many other important metrics to determine safety. Note that the U.S. DOS has explicitly stated that their Travel Advisories should not serve as a decision-based metric and at this time - the United States is a CDC Level 4 for COVID-19).

WHEN WILL I KNOW IF MY PROGRAM IS AFFECTED OR CHANGED DUE TO THE OMICRON VARIANT?

Click to Open

CIEE’s Risk Task Force meets weekly to assess all program safety. Should an event transpire that necessitates an expedited decision, CIEE’s Health, Safety and Security team will move swiftly to protect students currently onsite and make recommendations about future programs’ viability. You and your study abroad office will be notified within hours.

As of December 1, 2021, no programs have been changed or canceled including those currently operating.

THE CDC AND THE STATE DEPARTMENT HAVE RISK LEVELS, BUT AT WHAT LEVEL DOES CIEE CALL OFF THE PROGRAMS?

Click to Open

The overuse of Level 4 by DOS and CDC has made that risk level much more meaningless than it used to be. Traveling to Germany is not equally risky as traveling to Yemen or North Korea. After the updated methodology, so many countries have been assigned Travel Advisory Level 4 that the designation becomes essentially meaningless, overlooking vast differences in risk profiles between countries. 

WHERE MIGHT WE FIND INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT ADJUSTMENTS MIGHT BE BEING MADE OR CONSIDERED TO THE CAPE TOWN PROGRAM IN JANUARY, ESPECIALLY TO MINIMIZE RISK TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY?

Click to Open

We are planning very carefully to provide a program that doesn't increase risks for participants or our community members. We're able to offer many of our activities in the community outdoors, and when indoors, masking and social distancing and hand sanitizing applies.  Additionally, CIEE is requiring all participants and our local staff to be vaccinated.  

On Program

ARE YOU PERMITTING STUDENTS TO TRAVEL INDEPENDENTLY/FREELY WHILE ABROAD THIS SPRING?

Click to Open

We strongly discourage independent travel and inform our participants of this pre-arrival and during arrival orientation. Given the changing nature of border requirements, students assume all risk and responsibility for independent travel. We still ask that any travel be communicated to Student Life onsite so we know where students are in the event of an emergency. Be advised, CIEE can do little to intervene if the student is unable to return to their program location because of border restrictions, quarantine, illness, transportation delays, etc. and academic continuity is not guaranteed.    

WHAT ARE YOUR COMMUNICATION PROTOCOLS WHEN THERE IS A COVID POSITIVE STUDENT CASE ON A PROGRAM?

Click to Open

The first step, of course, is ensuring the safety and care of the Covid-positive student and the surrounding community. That does not necessarily include notifying everyone in the community. We do, however, have the site director email the parents and home school regarding the infection. Rather, it would be treated like any serious health emergency and notifications to those who "need to know."  

Billing

THE PROGRAM ASSURANCE POLICY DOES NOT COVER J-TERM PROGRAMS, WHY IS THAT? WHAT OTHER PLANS CAN BE DONE TO PROTECT STUDENTS WHO PLAN ON GOING ON JANUARY-TERM PROGRAMS?

Click to Open

J-term is of such short duration that our fixed, unrecoverable costs jeopardize CIEE's ability to operate fiscally responsible programs for other students given the significant flexibility this policy offers. As for alternatives, there are third-party insurances that offer 'Cancel for Any Reason' protection for purchase which may give students added flexibility to their decision making. 

General Questions

Below please find answers to commonly asked questions for our high school and college study abroad, teach abroad and gap year program participants around COVID protocols and vaccination policies.

WHY IS CIEE MANDATING VACCINATION?

Click to Open

Being fully vaccinated protects the health and safety of the local community, especially people at increased risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19. Ending the pandemic requires global cooperation and each individual should do their part unless unable to do so because of a bona fide medical or religious reason. Additional benefits include:

  • reducing the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks onsite and in your local host community which can disrupt the academic term;
  • allowing for a “return to normal” of study abroad activities you value;
  • allowing for greater comfort of your fellow students and CIEE staff who have extended networks they wish to protect;
  • reducing the opportunity for the virus to mutate whereby the variant might illude vaccines; and
  • showing respect to the local community with whom you are living that you value their safety

WILL I BE ADMITTED TO MY HOST COUNTRY IF I CANNOT GET VACCINATED?

Click to Open

There is a strong likelihood most countries will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination. It is expected most - if not all European Union (EU) countries - will use a "Digital Covid Certificate" (also known as a "green pass"). Other countries will set their own policies for entry regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and it is your responsibility to know entry requirements prior to travel.

Be advised -at a minimum - countries may require unvaccinated students to enter a mandatory quarantine for a minimum of 10 days. This will be at a government-designated facility or hotel. The entire cost of the liability of the student and is NOT included in the CIEE Program Fee. Additionally, understand in government quarantine your academic experience may be challenged as dependable Wi-Fi cannot be guaranteed at the quarantine facility. As such, if you are unvaccinated consider arriving early to avoid academic or program disruption. During quarantine you are not owed any refund for time missed on program.

ONCE I AM VACCINATED DO I STILL NEED TO WEAR A MASK OR PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING WHILE ONSITE?

Click to Open

You are required to follow all local laws and regulations related to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Understand laws abroad may differ than ones you are used to at home. It is hoped that vaccination campaigns expanding around the world in 2022 will decrease the spread of COVID-19 resulting in a relaxation of restrictions and mandates. Read the Student Covid Code of Conduct for additional details.

WHICH COVID-19 VACCINE SHOULD I GET?

Click to Open

The following vaccines have shown significant scientific evidence in reducing or eliminating the risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19:

  • Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
  • Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine


Participants coming from outside the U.S. who don't have access to a vaccine that is fully approved, or approved for emergency use, by the United States Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), and/or the World Health Organization, should check with their enrollment representative.

DO I NEED TO BE VACCINATED IF I HAVE ALREADY HAD COVID-19?

Click to Open

Yes, you should still be vaccinated against COVID-19 even if you have already had COVID-19. In some circumstances, such as if you are unable to get the vaccine because you are within 8-12 weeks of a positive diagnosis, proof of recovery from COVID-19 illness and resulting immunity is acceptable in lieu of full vaccination. Case may be presented to the CIEE enrollment team.

WILL I HAVE TO SHOW PROOF OF VACCINATION WHILE ABROAD (EG – “VACCINE PASSPORTS”)?

Click to Open

You will likely be asked for vaccine verification during your program – not just during travel but, depending on the guidelines in your host country, when you wish to gain admittance to certain locations such as museums or shops. Students will be required to upload a copy of their completed vaccination card to their application 14 days or more before a program begins, but we also recommend carrying a copy of your vaccination card while abroad.

SHOULD I BRING MY VACCINATION CARD ABROAD?

Click to Open

Yes, you should bring your vaccination card abroad as you may be required to present it at various locations.  You will be required to upload a copy of your vaccination card as part of your CIEE application process, and this is a strong safeguard against losing it permanently.

Will CIEE staff, instructors and homestay families be vaccinated?

Click to Open

Yes, all CIEE staff, instructors, and homestay families who are eligible for vaccination are required to be vaccinated no later than January 1, 2022.

For some high school semester or year abroad programs that run with a receiving organization, there may be different vaccination protocols in place. For these programs, you will be notified during the application process whether the program’s staff, instructors, and homestays families are required to be vaccinated.