EU proposes nine-month expiry date for vaccination certificate


QR code with digital EU COVID certificate displayed on a mobile phone.

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The European Union is considering a nine-month expiration date for its Covid-19 vaccine certificates, which will allow tourists certain freedom to travel while the coronavirus pandemic is still raging.

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, proposed on Thursday to update the EU’s digital Covid certificate. This document has made it easier for people to travel during the pandemic by outlining their vaccination status, whether they have recently recovered from the virus, or whether they recently tested negative.

The idea now is that the document should have a lifespan of nine months after the first vaccine was administered – for example after the second dose for Pfizer BioNTech shot or after a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The idea is that a vaccination record will expire when immunity wears off.

Thursday’s recommendation does not yet deal with booster shots. “It is reasonable to expect that protection from booster vaccinations will last longer than that resulting from primary vaccination,” the commission said.

Therefore, a new expiration date could be announced in a couple of weeks to include advice on booster vaccinations. In a major political shift, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control proposed on Wednesday that all adults should receive a booster vaccination, with priority given to those over 40.

The pandemic is not over yet

“It is obvious that the pandemic is not over yet,” said EU Commissioner Didier Reynders on Thursday. As such, he said, “travel rules must accommodate this volatile situation.”

Various European nations are facing high numbers of Covid infections, especially in those countries where the vaccination rate is still low.

The EU’s vaccination rate is 67% – this masks differences between nations like Portugal, where 88% of the population are fully vaccinated, and others where people are more reluctant to get a coronavirus vaccination.

Thursday’s announcement came when the World Health Organization warned earlier this week that the number of deaths from Covid in the region could exceed 2 million by March. The WHO also described the recent increase in cases as “very serious”.

Various European nations have announced measures to contain the rise in infections in the past few weeks. Countries like Austria and the Czech Republic have taken some of the strictest approaches.

Thursday’s proposal has to be ratified by the 27 EU member states before it can be approved.

The proposal also suggests that children under the age of six should be exempt from any travel restrictions. People between the ages of 6 and 12 should also be exempted, unless they come from a country with very high levels of contagion and children over the age of 12 must follow the same rules as adults.