The EU is planning a 9-month expiration date on its Covid vaccine passports

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QR code with EU COVID digital certificate displayed on a mobile phone.
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The European Union is considering a nine-month expiration date on its Covid-19 vaccine certificates, which allow tourists certain freedoms to travel while the coronavirus pandemic still rages.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, proposed Thursday that the EU Digital Covid Certificate should be updated. This document has allowed people to travel more easily amid the pandemic by outlining their vaccination status, whether they have recently recovered from the virus, or whether they have recently tested negative.

The idea now is that the document has a life span of nine months after the first set of vaccines are administered — so after the second dose for PfizerBioNTech shot, for example, or after one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The idea is that as immunity wanes, then a vaccine passport will expire.

Thursday’s recommendation does not yet address booster shots. The commission said that “it can reasonably be expected that protection from booster vaccinations may last longer than that resulting from the primary vaccination series.”

As such, a new expiration date could be announced in a couple of week’s time to include the advice for booster shots. In a major policy shift, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control suggested Wednesday that all adults should receive vaccine boosters, with priority given to those over 40.

Pandemic is not yet over

“It is evident that the pandemic is not yet over,” European Commissioner Didier Reynders said Thursday. As such, he said, “the travel rules need to take into account this volatile situation.”

Various European nations are facing a high number of Covid infections, notably in the countries where the vaccination rate remains low.

The EU’s inoculation rate is at 67% — this masks differences between nations, like Portugal, where 88% of the population is fully vaccinated and others, where people are more reluctant in getting a coronavirus shot.

Thursday’s announcement comes as the World Health Organization warned earlier this week that the number of deaths from Covid in the region could exceed 2 million by March. The WHO also described the recent increase in cases as “very serious.”

Different European nations have announced measures in recent weeks to contain rising infections. Countries such as Austria and the Czech Republic have taken some of the strictest approaches.

Thursday’s proposal needs to be ratified by the 27 EU member states before being approved.

The proposal also suggests that children below six years of age should be exempt from any travel restrictions. Those aged between 6 and 12 should also be exempt unless they come from a nation with a very high level of contagion and kids above 12 years will have to follow the same rules as adults.

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