European Commission to extend validity of vaccination certificate to 9 months

European Commission to extend validity of vaccination certificate to 9 months
EU Digital Covid Certificate. Credit: European Commission

The Commission adopted on Thursday rules relating to the EU Digital COVID Certificate, establishing a binding acceptance period of 9 months (precisely 270 days) of vaccination certificates for the purposes of intra-EU travel.

The decision, in the form of a delegated act, follows the European Council meeting last week (16 December). In its conclusions, the Council “stresses the importance of a coordinated approach on the validity of the EU Digital COVID vaccination certificate and takes note of the fact that the Commission will adopt a delegated act on this issue.”

The Commission refers to “imperative grounds of urgency” that require the use of the procedure for delegated acts. To allow for sufficient time for the technical implementation of the standard acceptance period, the new rules should apply from 1 February 2022.

"Today, we adopt a binding acceptance period of 9 months for vaccination certificates for intra-EU travel," the Commission said in a statement. "A harmonised validity period for the EU Covid Certificate is a necessity for safe free movement and EU level coordination."

The nine-month period starts after the completion of the first vaccination course. This takes into account the guidance of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). According to its rapid risk assessment report on 24 November, booster doses are recommended at the latest six months after the completion of the first vaccination cycle due to waning immunity.

The extra three months should give people the chance to effectively get their booster, but the fact that the vaccination certificate is valid for only nine months is intended to put the wind in the sails of the booster campaigns in the Member States.

For the time being, no rules are proposed on the validity of the certificate of those who received a booster dose, as there is still insufficient data on the period of protection provided by such a booster.

In principle, the rule will enter into force on 1 February, unless a qualified majority of Member States or a simple majority of Members of the European Parliament objects. The Commission, however, is adamant that this will not happen.

“What is needed now is to ensure that booster campaigns proceed as quickly as possible, that as many citizens are protected by an additional dose and that our certificates remain a key tool for travel and protection of public health,” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

The Commission’s delegated act refers also to ECDC’s updated risk assessment on 15 December. According to that assessment, "The population impact is expected to be higher if a booster dose is administered to most of the adult population and if this booster dose is given as early as possible, although not before three months after completion of the full vaccination course."

A Commission spokesperson told The Brussels Times that it follows the scientific recommendations of ECDC and EMA. “According to these agencies, the effectiveness of full vaccination is waning, and boosters are required. Our certificate follows this by the 6+3 approach.”

Whether certificates with primary vaccination will continue to be recognised until 1 February if they exceed the nine-month period will depend on the different Member States, according to the spokesperson.

"Some have also introduced limitations. Currently, there is no acceptance period foreseen in the rules, so, in principle before 1 February a member state could have shorter or longer acceptance – this is exactly why we adopted the binding rules to ensure clarity.”

Note: The article has been updated to include the Commission's replies.

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