(CNN) — Disney Cruise Line announced that all passengers ages 5 and up must be vaccinated against Covid-19 beginning in January, expanding its mandate to cover children who are now eligible for inoculation in the US. "As we set sail again, the health and safety of our Guests, Cast Members and Crew Members is a top priority. Our focus remains on operating our ships in a responsible way that continues to create magic for all on board," Disney Cruise Line said in a statement.
The requirement will begin January 13, 2022, the company said. Children under the age of 5 must show proof of a negative test between 3 days and 24 hours before departure, and children from age 5-11 can complete the testing requirements to board sailings before January 13.
The announcement is in line with the company policy stating that all vaccine-eligible guests -- as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- must be inoculated against Covid-19 before boarding. The US Food and Drug Administration authorized in late October that doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to children ages 5-11 could be distributed, which received the CDC's endorsement.
Proofs of vaccination accepted by the cruise line for passengers are those from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Covishield, Novavax, Sinopharm and Sinovac, the statement said.
The cruise industry has been working to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic and has made strides to provide safe travel for passengers through vaccine mandates and additional safety protocols, yet some cases have been reported.
"We are resuming sailing in a gradual, phased approach that emphasizes multiple layers of health and safety measures," Disney Cruise Line said, citing CDC guidance and medical experts in their decisions.
About 1.9 million children under the age of 12 have received their first dose of vaccine, according to CDC data, and the 5-11 age group comprises around a third of all new vaccinations over the past two weeks.