American expats are heading back to the US for vaccinations

(CNN) – Eric Barry has been leading a seemingly endless wave of uncertainty in his life over the past year.

The 35-year-old author and host of the podcast, who hails from the California Area Bay, researched a novel in Ecuador when the global pandemic broke out in March 2020.

For the next 12 months, as Barry tried to set up his new headquarters in Berlin, where he is studying for a master’s degree, he faced a challenge after a challenge: an apartment that went through the infamously difficult rental market in Berlin. trying to locate a German residence permit that might be sent to his previous address; and navigating to an unknown health care system where he has no idea when he will be vaccinated.

Now, Barry is returning to the United States for something he has control over: getting the Covid-19 shot in the near future. Listening to a partner’s plans a few weeks ago to travel to the US for her own vaccination “planted a seed,” she says.

“And then on a Facebook group I started seeing wave after wave of Americans all traveling back and I thought, maybe this is something I want to do,” Barry says as he waits at a Starbucks before the first of three flights. 30 hours in California, where he intends to stay with his already vaccinated mom.

“I never thought that, as I left the United States for Germany, with this promise of a life with a better health care system, less than a year later I would travel back to the United States for health care.”

This seems to be a growing sentiment among Americans living abroad – especially those in Europe who were frustrated by the availability of vaccines that the World Health Organization described in a recent report as “unacceptably slow”.

Only 10% of Europe’s population received the foreground in the form of two doses and many countries, including Germany and France, are in a tight lock.

Vaccine campaign poster hangs in Berlin Cathedral in Germany. Some American expatriates living in Europe have become frustrated with the slow release of vaccines and are returning to the United States to receive them.

Maja Hitij / Getty Images Europe

“We both felt so relieved”

It is a completely different scene across the Atlantic, as more and more US states continue to open vaccines to all adults over the age of 16, with “I Got the Shot” stickers and self-administered vaccines that multiply on social media.

The United States continues to set a record for the number of daily doses given, and President Joe Biden has pledged that by the end of May – a two-month target – the United States will have enough vaccines for every adult who wants one.

Some Americans abroad also want action.

Representatives of the US State Department and US Customs and Border Protection told CNN by e-mail that they do not monitor data on US citizens living abroad returning for their vaccines.

But it is a safe bet that there are more than a few who do just that on half full flights to the US, whose borders remain closed, except for US citizens.

Mindy Chung, her husband and their young son were recently among them. Chang and her husband decided earlier this year to fly from Berlin, where they live, to their home country of California, after her doctor in Germany told her she could not get the vaccine soon, despite her underlying health conditions.

“It was a moment like, yes, we can not stay,” says Chang.

A few days after landing in California about a week ago, Chang and her husband secured an appointment.

“Once we went through the check-in process and got our plan, we both felt so relieved that we had another level of protection,” says Chung.

Meanwhile, online groups of expatriate Americans are filling up with posts about travel restrictions and border closures and which states are stricter in proving residency. Others are sharing on-site updates on how the process went.

A vaccination center at the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin opened on March 8.  Some American expatriates fly to the United States to get vaccinated faster.

A vaccination center at Berlin’s former Tempelhof Airport opened on March 8. Some American expatriates fly to the United States to get vaccinated faster.

Michele Tantussi / Getty Images Europe / Getty Images

“No correct answer”

Unsurprisingly, there can also be a backlash, both online and in real life.

“Sometimes it feels like, now that you live here, this is part of the package,” says Austin Langlois, a former digital nomad who moved to Amsterdam for a full-time communications job in the spring of 2020. I feel like I’m getting, like, a instead of going to the states to do your vaccination, do it faster. ”

The range of Langlois eligibility for a shot in the Netherlands extends into the fall, which is “a long time”, says Langlois, who hails from Michigan.

“My perspective is that it should not be a debate about what [vaccine] you get it or where you get it from. Everyone should get it as soon as possible, where it can, because it will support the collective health of our society. “

That said, while Langlois is considering returning to the United States this spring, he has not yet purchased a ticket. He remains optimistic that the Netherlands will speed up the vaccination program and want to “respect” current travel advice. It also monitors the weak state in the United States.

“We’re treading a third wave in the US, so you have that dilemma,” says Langlos. “Are you traveling and putting yourself and others at risk of getting your vaccination sooner or waiting to get your vaccination here, who knows when?” There is no right answer and there is no clear answer. “

People enjoy the warm weather on the banks of the Seine in Paris on March 31.  Hospitalizations are on the rise in the city and vaccine supply has been slow in France.

People enjoy the warm weather on the banks of the Seine in Paris on March 31. Hospitalizations are on the rise in the city and vaccine supply has been slow in France.

Rafael Yaghobzadeh / Getty Images Europe

“Get some back control”

For expatriate Americans, the decision takes on another level of complexity. Ali Garland, a Berlin-based travel blogger, says that although she has an autoimmune disease that places her in a higher priority group, it is unclear when her plans will be made and the schedule for her husband could reach 2022. .

The dangers and inconveniences of the journey itself – flying with their new puppy, finding short-term housing in the US – are also frightening. So Garland and her husband remain in a miserable “wait and see” state.

“A big part of why I’m thinking of going back to the US is control,” Garland told CNN via email. “The last year has been like a complete lack of control in my life. So, I came up with ideas, and to see them flush it out, it’s really fun to go to the US and get vaccinated. “

Seile, a Seattle-based freelance writer and photographer based in Paris, can be related. To spent three months with his family in the United States before returning to France in March – and in another lockout.

To has heard alarming reports of other foreigners having their residence cards confiscated at the French border. This makes her reluctant to return to the US for a vaccine, only to not allow him to return to France, where he lived for six years and is now thinking about home.

However, Cho, who says she has severe asthma, says that if the situation does not improve by June, she could just go on a plane heading to the US for her vaccine.

“All my friends have been vaccinated or have an appointment, and they send me vaccines,” says Cho. “Obviously, I’m so happy for them. But because of the way things are going in Europe, there seems to be no hope at the moment.”

Blane Bachelor is a Berlin-based, Berlin-based journalist who writes about travel, outdoor adventure, parents and women doing great things. Visit her website at

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