The European Union (EU) confirmed on Thursday afternoon a proposal to add a nine-month validity to vaccinations for international travel to the bloc. The proposals come as evidence mounts that boosters will be needed to make up for waning immunity that accelerates around the six-month mark for widely used COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Adding a time limit to someone’s vaccination status is part of wider proposals put forward by the Commission that focuses more on an individual’s status rather than the health situation in the country they are travelling from.
The Commission based its proposal on recent guidance from Europe’s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control which has called for all fully vaccinated adults to be offered a booster shot after six months. A three-month buffer has been suggested by the Commission to allow for sloppy vaccination campaigns.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the Commission has been fully active in finding solutions to guarantee the safe free movement of people in a coordinated manner,” commented Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders on Thursday.
“In light of the latest developments and scientific evidence, we are proposing a new recommendation to be adopted by the Council.”
The proposals are likely to be ratified by the Council but it will be left up to individual member states to choose whether they implement the updated rules. Austria, for example, as already added a validity period to vaccination status, while other countries that rely heavily on tourism may choose to implement a looser interpretation of the proposals.
Reynders, however, expressed his displeasure with the patchwork of travel restrictions that remain across the bloc. “Our main objective is to avoid diverging measures throughout the EU,” he said after the latest proposals were published.
The Council still needs to agree on a standard validity period for vaccination certificates which must take into account the fact that some national health authorities don’t yet recommend booster shots for all adults.
Europe’s CDC says adults aged 40 years and older, as well as high-risk groups and healthcare workers, should be prioritised for booster shots.
The switch to a person-based approach will be built around the EU Digital COVID Certificate which has already been adopted by a slew of other countries as a common framework to prove vaccination status.
Individuals who can prove their vaccination status with an EU-approved vaccination certificate shouldn’t have to take a COVID-19 test to travel or be subject to quarantine rules according to the Commission.
Travellers who have been vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine that isn’t yet approved by the European Medicines Agency will have to have a negative PCR test for travel. The same rule will apply to travellers who aren’t yet vaccinated but have natural immunity from a recent infection (up to 180 days from a positive test)
A negative PCR test may also be required for travellers who don’t possess an EU-approved vaccination certificate.
If approved, the new rules will come into force from 1st March 2022. A list of ‘safe’ countries where travellers could come from to the bloc without providing vaccination or test status will be discontinued if the proposals are approved.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.