Clock is ticking for EU vaccine certificates as summer time looms

When the EU Commission proposed the system in March, it said that coronavirus certificates would be issued to EU citizens who can prove they have been vaccinated, or to those who have tested negative for the virus or can prove that they have recovered from it.

EU lawmakers and nations agree on this, but Parliament insists that COVID-19 certificates should be enough to allow EU citizens to move around freely and that EU countries should not be allowed should, to impose additional restrictions on certificate holders such as quarantines, tests or other certificates, self-isolation measures.

This is a major hurdle as border controls are a national responsibility.

A senior EU official, speaking anonymously ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, said EU countries had different opinions on the issue and the bloc was working to find a universal solution. The official said the pressure had increased as vaccinations increased across Europe and more and more people wanted to travel.

The European Commission hopes that around 70% of the EU’s adult population will be vaccinated by the end of summer.

Parliament has also raised concerns about the price of the PCR coronavirus tests, which could be included in the certificates, which will be available in digital or paper form with a QR code. EU citizens get the pass for free, but the prices for tests vary widely across the block.

The EU legislature said member states should “ensure universal, accessible, timely and free testing” to avoid discriminating against those who have yet to be vaccinated.

Legislators agreed with the European Commission that all vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency, the EU medicines regulator, should be automatically recognized. So far, these include vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. They also gave EU countries a chance to include other emergency vaccines listed by the World Health Organization, including China’s Sinopharm vaccine.

The EU has already started to work on the technical aspects of the vaccine certificate. The tests begin this week in several EU countries.


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