People who hope to travel to European Union next year will need to get a booster job when their original Covid vaccines are more than nine months old, according to new proposals from Brussels.
On Thursday European Commission proposed a nine-month limit on the validity of the vaccine that would apply to travel within and to the EU.
If the plans are approved by EU ministers, travelers will have to show proof of an EU-approved booster job from 10 January 2022 when their original vaccine status is more than nine months old. Similarly, travelers between Member States would need to meet the same requirements to avoid Covid testing, quarantine and other restrictions.
The Commission hopes to avoid a confusing mix of rules in the 27 Member States, as governments seek to tighten restrictions on everyday life following an increase in coronavirus infections.
The plans were unveiled on Thursday when the European Medicines Agency approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged five to 11, paving the way for governments to expand vaccination campaigns.
The EU regulator recommended two injections three weeks apart in the upper arm of primary school children, with one third of the adult dose.
The latest EU proposals give priority to vaccinated people, as Brussels is going to classify travelers according to individual health and vaccine status, rather than their country of departure.
From 1 March 2022, EU Member States would only allow entry for vaccinated, recovered or necessary travelers, such as truck drivers. The current system, under which countries are added and removed from a safe list, will be removed, a change that officials believe provides more security.
The recommendation to make booster jabs necessary after nine months for non-essential travelers outside the EU is both scientific advice and practical policy. Immunity declines after six months, but EU officials added three more to allow governments to launch booster-shot programs.
The EU leadership also wants to allow entry for travelers with non-EU-approved vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization, such as China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac, and The AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. The EU has only approved four vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca (manufactured in Europe), Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and Moderna.
Most EU Member States only allow entry for people with EU-approved vaccines.
According to the new proposals, travelers to the EU with a WHO-approved vaccine that is not EU-approved can enter the EU, but would need to produce a negative Covid test.
Tests and vaccinations are not required for children under the age of six, while those aged six to 17 must have a negative Covid test to enter the EU. Within the EU, children under the age of 12 are exempt from the travel rules.
Travel within the EU has been facilitated by the EU’s digital Covid certificate, which enables travelers to prove that they have been fully vaccinated, recently tested negative or fully recovered from the virus.
The EU’s passport ‘is now linked to similar systems in 43 countries, including Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Turkey and New Zealand. This means that these countries’ Covid certificates are accepted in the EU and vice versa. At least 20 EU member states use the digital certificate to control access to bars, restaurants, cinemas and other venues.
EU officials fear that if Member States choose different travel rules, people will lose confidence in the EU’s digital Covid passport. Didier Reynders, EU Justice Commissioner, said EU citizens holding the EU covid certificate should not face further restrictions when traveling within the Union.
The EU has vaccinated almost two thirds of the population and about three quarters of the adults, not enough to avoid an increase in cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant and relaxation of restrictions.
On Thursday, the outgoing German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said that “every day counts” when it comes to introducing social distancing measures and warned that her country is facing “exponential growth” in cases. A number of measures have been put in place by German regions to slow down the spread of the virus, however Merkel urges them to go further.
Earlier this week, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, changed its guidelines to recommend booster shots for all adults, with priority given to people over 40.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “We have vaccinated over 65% of the EU’s total population, but that is not enough. There are still too many people who are not protected. For everyone to be able to travel and live as safely as possible, we must reach significantly higher vaccination rates, immediately. “