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17th Jan 2022

EU set to limit vaccine certificate to nine months

  • The new rules would be implemented on 10 January (Photo: Nelson L.)
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The European Commission wants to extend the EU covid certificate beyond next summer, along with new conditions on booster and third shots.

"Beyond the nine months, the vaccination certificate will no longer be recognized if a booster jab hasn't been given," EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders announced on Thursday (25 November).

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Aside from vaccination, a certificate also indicates test and recovery results.

Reynders described the tweaked rules as a "person-based approach" that will rely less on the colour-coded "traffic light map" indicating infection concentration zones.

It means those with a valid certificate will not have to undergo additional restrictions if they come from a red zone inside the EU.

The new regime would start on 10 January next year, once approved by the Council, representing member states.

Even though the efficacy rates of full vaccination drops after six months, EU states are being given an extra three months to administer the boosters in an effort to avoid travel chaos.

"We are allowing for an implementation period, if you like, of three months after the six months," said Reynders, totalling nine months.

But the announcement also comes amid diverging national rules announced in some EU states.

France as of 15 January will not recognise certificates of adults where booster shots have not been administered within the last seven months.

Yet booster shots have been rolling out at a slow pace in neighbouring Belgium, posing possible problems for those wanting to enter France without having to get tested.

Meanwhile, other member states like Hungary have used Russian and Chinese vaccines not approved by the European Medicines Agency.

To date, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are the only jabs approved in the EU.

It means those with different vaccines still will not be able to get the vaccine certificate under the tweaked rules.

Those new rules also mean children under six years of age will not be subject to any travel restriction.

Kids between 6 and 12 will also be exempt unless they come from a high-infection zone, in which case they would need an EU certificate or a negative test result.

Everyone else will be treated as adults.

People without a certificate will still be allowed to travel within the EU but could be required to take a test prior to or after arrival.

Travelling into the EU

Reynder's announcement was also followed by additional rules, starting in March, for people wanting to travel to the EU.

"We are moving away from this country-based approach to an individual-based approach," said EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.

The EU currently uses a specific list of countries to gauge entry requirements over Covid.

This will be replaced by an "individual-based situation where you have to be vaccinated."

"For children under the age of 18, they can always come in with a PCR test. This is the new rule from the first of March," she also said.

People with EU-approved vaccines can enter without any problems.

Others, with a World Health Organization-approved vaccine, will still need an additional PRC test.

All vaccinated travellers will need to have full primary vaccination in the preceding nine months or have received an additional dose.

Surge of infections triggers new restrictions, despite vaccination

The spike in Covid-19 infections is prompting some EU governments to introduce lockdown measures and restrictions for the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, travel operators are calling for coordination and a common approach for booster doses and valid certificates.

EU Commission: This Covid wave will not hit economy as hard

"Our estimate is that the economic consequences will not be as serious as they have been last winter," economic commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told reporters when presenting the executive's economic recommendations for EU countries.

Omicron shows need for pandemic global pact, WHO says

The emergence of the new and more-contagious Omicron variant has revealed how "perilous and precarious" the Covid situation is and "why the world needs a new accord on pandemics," the chief of the World Health Organisation said.

EU agency: 'Omicron vaccine' approval to take 3-4 months

The EU drug regulator's chief said the bloc is ready to tackle mutations and allow for the fast-track approval of redesigned vaccines. The EU's disease agency said all known European Omicron cases were so far asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.

WHO warns mandatory vaccination 'absolute last resort'

Mandatory vaccination has become a hot topic in the EU, but the European branch of the World Health Organization has warned that it should be "an absolute last resort". Children, meanwhile, account for the highest infection-rates across the continent.

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