EU Covid travel passes to expire 9 months after last vaccine dose
The Digital Covid Certificates obtained by people who were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will expire nine months after a final vaccine dose, the European Commission said on Tuesday. The new rule will take effect starting on February 1, and will initially only be used for the purposes of travel.
The European Commission had wanted the travel passes to expire after six months, but decided to give countries more time to expedite their booster shot campaigns. “The Certificate will remain valid for a grace period of an additional three months beyond those six months to ensure that national vaccination campaigns can adjust and citizens will have access to booster doses,” the Commission said in a statement.
Member States who started their booster campaigns late will also get three additional weeks to catch up. When the rule was proposed, the European Commission had considered implementing the stricter rule on January 10, not on February 1. It is not known how long the certificate will be valid after a vaccinated person gets a booster shot. The booster will also make an expired certificate valid again.
The Netherlands was one of the last Member States to launch its booster campaign. Although the European Medicines Agency gave its first approval to booster shots on October 4, the Netherlands did not plan on starting with booster jabs before December 6. It was only under intense pressure from healthcare experts that the Ministry of Health decided to move the launch date to November 18.
With a massive Delta variant wave, and the threat of a new wave from the Omicron variant, several EU Member States have made their own national travel rules which are stricter than the European Union’s. Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed hope last week that the change in travel pass policy would lead countries like Italy to keep their restrictions in line with the entire European Union.
“When introducing different rules to use the certificates at national level, Member States are encouraged to align them to these new rules to provide certainty for travellers and reduce disruptions,” the Commission said on Tuesday.
“The new rules will ensure restrictions are based on the best available scientific evidence as well as objective criteria. Continued coordination is essential for the functioning of the Single Market and it will provide clarity for EU citizens in the exercise of their right to free movement.”
The EU Digital Covid Certificate is used by 60 countries and territories on five continents.