With Covid passes set to expire, GGD opens booster jab access to all adults
Coronavirus access passes based on a person’s vaccination status will only be valid for a period of nine months beginning on February 1, said Health Minister Hugo de Jonge this week. "From that moment on, traveling will no longer be possible without having had a booster shot," the minister said. The policy may also be extended beyond travel to include every location in the Netherlands where an access pass is required for entry.
The updated measure will still need to first be approved by the Tweede Kamer. The policy change means that on February 1, anyone the Dutch government considered fully vaccinated on or before May 1, 2021, will no longer be able to use their pass unless they received a booster vaccine shot. On February 2, people who received their last vaccination shot on May 2 will lose their pass, and so on.
De Jonge already said in mid-December that the Netherlands was preparing to implement that policy. A week later, the European Commission determined that the validity of the Digital Covid Certificates should be limited to nine months after a person’s last Covid-19 vaccine shot for the purpose of international travel.
The adjustment of the Dutch policy will expand beyond travel, and will include any situation where the access pass is required for entry, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told Nu.nl. That includes visiting hospitality businesses and museums when the current lockdown is eventually lifted.
The government is concerned about the waning effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines, and the diminished protection they may offer against newer variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. “That is why it is so important to get a booster shot; To be better protected, but also for the coronavirus access pass, and to be able to travel,” a spokesperson told AD.
As of Tuesday, every adult in the Netherlands can book an appointment for a Covid-19 booster jab, De Jonge confirmed. The appointment-making system was rapidly expanded to cover more people during the past two weeks, with everyone born in 2003 or earlier able to make the appointment. The health minister previously said he wants everyone eligible for a booster shot to be able to receive one by February 1.
In order to be eligible for a booster, a person must not have been infected with the coronavirus in the past three months. They must also have received their last vaccine dose more than three months ago. As such, as many as 1.5 million adults may not yet be eligible for a booster shot. Roughly 11.9 million adults have received a complete first course of vaccination to date, and 3.8 million have also been given a booster jab.
Dutch coronavirus access passes are typically generated in the CoronaCheck app, which displays a QR code that can be scanned for entrance to various locations and activities. Aside from vaccination status, the QR code can be generated for anyone who recovered from a coronavirus infection within the past year, and for those who tested negative for the coronavirus infection with 24 hours of the QR code’s use.
That could also change soon, as the outgoing Cabinet expressed its desire to only provide access passes to those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, or who recently recovered from the coronavirus infection. Dubbed the “2G” policy, it is a contentious political issue which may need to be handled by the next Cabinet. Additionally, the current Cabinet wants to reduce the eligibility period for those who recovered from coronavirus to 180 days.
Although the same four political parties will make up the fourth Cabinet of Mark Rutte when it is sworn in on January 10, De Jonge will be replaced by intensive care leader Ernst Kuipers. Other significant Cabinet changes as it relates to healthcare and social policy-making include Karien van Gennip being tapped to replace Wouter Koolmees as Minister of Social Affairs, Carola Schouten taking over the ministerial portfolio for social participation issues, and Conny Helder joining the Cabinet as the minister in charge of long-term care.