Experts say you can visit Disney theme parks once you're vaccinated - but you still might want to wait

Experts say you can visit Disney theme parks once you're vaccinated - but you still might want to wait
As more people receive COVID-19 vaccinations, Disney fans are ready to return to the company's theme parks.Disney/Handout/Getty Images
  • Infectious disease experts told Insider it's safe for fully vaccinated adults to visit Disney parks.
  • Still, you'll want to continue wearing masks and social distancing to protect others around you.
  • You also might want to wait to visit Disney destinations - many attractions are still unavailable.

More than one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, people are arguably more eager to travel than ever before - and Disney fans are no different.

The company's Orlando, Florida, theme park reopened in July 2020 after a temporary closure that year, and it's been welcoming parkgoers ever since. Disneyland in Anaheim, California, on the other hand, is set to reopen at the end of April.

The timing seems perfect for Disney diehards, as vaccines are becoming more readily available and people are starting to feel more comfortable traveling.
But many Disney fans want to know if it's safe to hop on a plane and ride theme-park rides once you're vaccinated. According to two infectious disease experts who spoke with Insider, the answer is yes.

However, you still might want to wait to plan your trip, especially if you've never visited before, or if visitors in your travel group aren't likely to get a vaccine by the time of your trip.

Health experts said fully vaccinated adults can take Disney trips with 'little to no worry'

Numerous vaccines are available around the world at the time of writing. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are given in two doses, while Johnson & Johnson's vaccine requires a single shot. All are administered in the upper arm muscle and protect against severe illness from COVID-19.

The effectiveness of these vaccines, as infectious disease experts told Insider, makes it safe for people who've gotten them to travel and visit locations like Disney theme parks.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, told Insider that he feels it's "fine to go to a Disney theme park with little to no worry" once you're fully vaccinated. "The more that vaccinated people go to the theme parks, the safer the theme parks become," he said. "This is the reason why people should get vaccinated - so they can get back to their lives."

Fully vaccinated adults may want to visit theme parks with children who are still too young to receive the vaccine, and those adults should weigh the risks and benefits of taking the trip themselves, Adalja said.

In the United States, the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is currently authorized for people who are 16 years old and older, and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson's shots are authorized for those who are 18 and up.

Experts say you can visit Disney theme parks once you're vaccinated - but you still might want to wait
It's safe to visit Disney theme parks if you're a fully vaccinated adult, according to experts.John Raoux/AP
There's hope that teens and children could get soon vaccines, as Pfizer recently announced that its vaccine was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infection in kids ages 12 to 15 in a late-stage trial of more than 2,000 participants, and the FDA said it could authorize it for that age group "in time for the fall school year."

Adalja said that for all parents and children visiting theme parks, it's important to continue prioritizing social distancing and mask-wearing because they "have a considerable impact" on a family's safety.

Fully vaccinated adults at Disney parks should keep taking safety precautions as well

Dr. Abraar Karan, an internal medicine and global health physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, told Insider that "the risk of becoming infected and having a severe outcome is exceptionally low" after being fully vaccinated.

Still, he pointed out that while vaccines reduce the chance of infection and leave you with less-severe or even no symptoms, the vaccines currently available "don't eliminate" COVID-19 altogether.
"This matters because it means you can carry and still spread the virus to others - and that's a problem if those other people are not vaccinated," Karan said. "For those who aren't vaccinated, the risk is still there."

That's why, according to Karan, you should continue to take steps - like wearing masks in large public crowds and indoor spaces - that ensure the safety of those around you.

Experts say you can visit Disney theme parks once you're vaccinated - but you still might want to wait
All visitors should still continue social distancing and wearing masks.Charles Sykes/AP
There's also a risk for people who are only partially vaccinated, Karan said.

According to the latest data from the CDC, one shot of a vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna provides pretty good protection, but it's not perfect. The US is still registering tens of thousands of cases per day across the country, Karan added.

That should be a serious consideration for people who aren't vaccinated or have only received one dose. "And when you go to a place like Disney, you'll be running into many people from all over. You should be careful to avoid crowds until you're fully vaccinated," Karan said.

Disney World also continues to require masks for fully vaccinated visitors

Disney World requires all parkgoers and employees to wear two-layered face masks in its theme parks. The Florida resort announced in January that vaccinated guests still need to comply with the face-covering rule.

Masks can be removed only while swimming, or eating and drinking in a stationary spot. Bandanas, neck gaiters, and other less protective face coverings are prohibited.

Other recently added safety measures include mandatory ticket reservations, required temperature checks, social distancing in the form of place markers and physical barriers, and reduced contact at hotels, gift shops, and dining locations.

Ahead of its reopening in April, Disneyland has announced it will follow the same safety guidelines as Disney World. One exception, however, is that only California residents will be able to purchase tickets and make reservations at the time of writing.
Experts say you can visit Disney theme parks once you're vaccinated - but you still might want to wait
An employee at Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom wears a face mask and face shield at the entrance to the park during the COVID-19 pandemic in Orlando on July 23, 2020.BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images

Still, you might want to save your Disney trip for another time

Some attractions, shows, and other forms of entertainment - like fireworks, parades, and the ability to hug characters - are currently unavailable at Disney World to reduce crowds.

AJ Wolfe, the founder of the Disney Food Blog, previously told Insider that visiting Disney World during the COVID-19 pandemic meant that there was "a lot missing from the general experience you would normally have."

Disneyland has yet to open, but it's possible that the California theme park could also have limited offerings, similar to its Florida counterpart.
As a result, those hoping to make their dream Disney vacations a reality in 2021 might want to hold off for now - even if they're fully vaccinated and eager to travel.

"Are you going for your very first trip ever, or your only trip ever?" Wolfe said. "Are you bringing the whole family and spending 16 mortgage payments? Now is probably not the time to go if that's the case. You're not going to get the full experience - you're just not. I don't think there's any way to sugarcoat that."

It may be tempting to purchase Disney tickets as soon as you're vaccinated, and that might be a good idea for some fans. But until the parks are back to the full magic they're capable of, it's probably worth the wait.

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