Coronavirus Global situation

EU proposes 9-month validity for vaccine certs

It urges green light for WHO-approved shots - including Chinese, Indian vaccines - for travel

BRUSSELS • The EU's executive branch has recommended that the bloc's vaccination certificate, which has allowed free travel of Europeans vaccinated against Covid-19, be valid only up to nine months after a second dose.

The European Union is looking to update its Covid-19 certificate that has made travel easier within the bloc, as a surge in infections raises fears that cross-border movement could be under threat again.

"We propose a validity of nine months for the European anti-Covid certificate and beyond this period, its validity would no longer be recognised in the absence of a booster dose," EU commissioner Didier Reynders said yesterday in a press briefing.

This period takes into account guidelines by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on booster doses after six months and leaves an additional three months to give countries time to adjust their vaccination campaigns, Mr Reynders added.

EU governments, which will need to approve the European Commission's recommendation, kicked off debate on the topic on Tuesday.

Greece proposed on Wednesday that people should in future be able to travel freely if they have received a dose in the past six months. Accepting that immunity wanes over time, the executive Commission is proposing that people should be considered covered if the final dose of their primary vaccination was within the last nine months, and that this update should apply from Jan 10.

Given that most EU residents who were vaccinated received their final doses in the second and third quarters of this year, their coverage would expire mostly by the middle of next year.

The EU's Covid-19 certificate is seen as a success story for keeping cross-border travel open for vaccinated Europeans, giving a much-needed boost to the pandemic-stricken economy, especially the tourism sector.

The certificate, backed by legislation approved by the European Parliament, came into force in July and allows bearers travelling within the EU to prove they were fully vaccinated, had a recent negative Covid-19 test result, or were recovered from the coronavirus.

The European Commission proposed accepting all vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation for travel purposes, which would allow non-essential travel to the EU from outside the bloc for people inoculated with vaccines made in China and India.

It also proposed yesterday that EU residents need to have Covid-19 vaccine booster jabs if they want to travel to another country in the bloc next summer free of tests or quarantines.

The Commission wants to harmonise rules across the 27 EU nations to allow free movement.

It made its proposal as Europe again became the centre of the Covid-19 pandemic even after successful vaccination campaigns, prompting some countries to consider new curbs on movement as the continent heads into winter.

EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said 65 per cent of the EU population are vaccinated.

"For everyone to travel and live as safely as possible, we need to reach significantly higher vaccination rates - urgently.

"We also need to reinforce our immunity with booster vaccines," she said.

The EU's drug regulator yesterday approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11, paving the way for them to be given a first shot.

The European Medicines Agency recommended that Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, approved for EU use in teenagers between 12 and 17 since May, be given as an injection in the upper arm in two 10 microgram doses, three weeks apart. Adult doses contain 30 mcg.

Over 1.5 million people have died from Covid-19 in Europe since the pandemic began, an AFP tally of official data showed yesterday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2021, with the headline 'EU proposes 9-month validity for vaccine certs'. Subscribe