On Thursday afternoon, the European Union (EU) confirmed a proposal to extend the validity of vaccinations for international travel to the bloc to nine months.
The ideas come as evidence builds that boosters will be required to compensate for declining immunity that occurs around the six-month mark for Pfizer and Moderna’s widely used COVID-19 vaccines.
Adding a time restriction to someone’s vaccination status is part of a larger set of Commission suggestions that focuses on an individual’s status rather than the health situation in the country from which they are traveling.
The Commission’s suggestion is based on recent guidelines from Europe’s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which recommends that all fully vaccinated individuals receive a booster dose six months later.
The Commission has proposed a three-month gap to accommodate for sloppy immunization programs.
“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 changes are likely to be accepted by the Council, but individual member states will be free to decide whether or not to apply the amended rules. Austria, for example, has already introduced a validity term to vaccination status, while other nations with a high tourist reliance may opt for a more liberal interpretation of the suggestions.
Reynders, on the other hand, highlighted her dissatisfaction with the patchwork of travel restrictions that continue to exist across the EU. “Our fundamental goal is to avoid diverging policies across the EU,” she stated following the release of the latest recommendations.
The Council must yet agree on a standard validity term for vaccination certificates, taking into consideration the fact that certain national health authorities do not yet suggest booster doses for all individuals.
Adults aged 40 and older, as well as high-risk groups and healthcare workers, should be given priority for booster vaccinations, according to the European CDC.
The transition to a person-based approach will be based on the EU Digital COVID Certificate, which has already been adopted as a common framework for proving immunization status by a number of other nations.
According to the Commission, individuals who can establish their vaccination status with an EU-approved vaccination certificate should not be required to do a COVID-19 test or be subject to quarantine procedures.
Travelers who have received a WHO-recommended vaccine that has not yet been licensed by the European Medicines Agency must have a negative PCR test.
Travelers who haven’t been vaccinated but have natural immunity from a recent virus will be subject to the same rules (up to 180 days from a positive test)
For travelers who do not have an EU-approved vaccination certificate, a negative PCR test may be necessary.
The new rules will take effect on March 1, 2022, if they are adopted. If the plans are accepted, a list of safe countries from which visitors might enter the bloc without submitting proof of vaccination or test status will be removed.