Health & Fitness

The EU is proposing vaccine certificates for travel – but citizens may not need a shot

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This photo illustration shows a French passport and an international vaccination or prophylactic certificate in front of the Berlaymont, the headquarters of the EU Commission, on March 13, 2021 in Brussels, Belgium.

Thierry Monasse | Getty Images

LONDON – The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, proposed a vaccination certificate for citizens on Wednesday to support tourism-related activities this summer.

Tourism-dependent economies like Greece have pushed for a common EU system that would restore some travel to the region this summer. These countries struggled with fewer visitors in 2020 and want to welcome people back to avoid more serious economic scars.

As a result, the Commission proposed that EU citizens could use a “digital green certificate” to prove they had been vaccinated against the virus. that they received a negative Covid-19 test; or they have recovered after contracting the coronavirus.

The idea with the other two options in addition to vaccination is to avoid criticism that the document discriminates against those who have not yet received a shot. However, some nations, including France, are concerned about the idea as young people will be the last to receive a vaccine.

At a press conference on Wednesday, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “The certificate will ensure that the results, the data it contains, the data and the minimum data set are mutually recognized in each Member State.”

“We want to help Member States restore free movement in a safe, responsible and trustworthy way,” she added.

In addition, a vaccine certificate is a difficult pill for some EU countries given the region’s free movement policy. Until the coronavirus emerged and in most cases European citizens were able to move from one country to another without passport control.

The European Commission also said on Wednesday that all vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency should be automatically recognized by other member states under this new system. However, countries that wished to do so could also recognize vaccines that have not yet been approved by the European regulator.

Hungary, for example, vaccinates its citizens with the Russian vaccine Sputnik V and the shot from China. These have not yet been approved by the EMA.

The document is expected to contain only one very specific record: the citizen’s name and date of birth, the date the certificate was issued, relevant information about a vaccine, test or recovery, and a unique identification name.

“This cannot be maintained by the countries visited,” the Commission said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Brussels-based institution also stated that the certificate will be available free of charge in the language of the issuing country as well as in English and that it is only a temporary mechanism.

“It will be suspended as soon as the World Health Organization declares the end of the international health emergency Covid-19,” says a Commission document.

Wednesday’s proposal will be discussed at the next European summit later this month. In February, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said that the introduction of a digital certificate could take three months.

The various EU countries and the European Parliament must approve the Commission’s proposal before it can be implemented.

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Katherine Clark