- “It is clear that the pandemic is not over yet,” European Commissioner Didier Reynders said on Thursday.
- Various European countries are experiencing high numbers of COVID-19 infections, especially in countries with low vaccination rates.
The European Union is considering a nine-month expiration date on its Covid-19 vaccine certificates, which gives tourists some freedom to travel while the coronavirus pandemic still rages.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, proposed on Thursday that the European Union’s digital COVID certificates should be updated. The document allows people to travel more easily amid the pandemic by outlining their vaccination status, whether they have recently recovered from the virus, or have recently tested negative.
The idea now is that the document has a lifespan of nine months after the first set of vaccines are administered—so after a second dose for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, for example, or after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The idea is that as immunity goes down, so will a vaccine passport.
Thursday’s recommendation does not yet address booster shots. The commission said that “it can be reasonably expected that protection from booster vaccination may last longer as a result of the primary vaccination series.”
As such, a new expiration date may be announced in a few weeks to include advice for booster shots. In a major policy change, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control suggested on Wednesday that all adults should receive a vaccine booster, with priority given to those over 40.
“It is clear that the pandemic is not over yet,” European Commissioner Didier Reynders said on Thursday. As such, he said, “travel regulations must take this volatile situation into account.”
Various European countries are facing a large number of COVID infections, especially in countries with low vaccination rates.
The EU’s vaccination rate is 67% – that’s a difference between nations such as Portugal, where 88% of the population is fully vaccinated, and others, where people are more reluctant to get the coronavirus shot.
Thursday’s announcement comes as the World Health Organization warned earlier this week that the number of Covid deaths in the region could exceed 2 million by March. The WHO recently described the increase in cases as “very serious”.
Various European countries have announced measures in recent weeks to contain rising infections. Countries like Austria and the Czech Republic have taken a somewhat tougher stance.
Thursday’s proposal needs to be ratified by the 27 EU member states before it can be accepted.
The resolution also suggested that children below six years of age should be exempted from any travel restrictions. Those aged 6 to 12 should also be exempt, unless they come from a country of very high status and children over the age of 12 must follow the same rules as adults.