EU Vaccine Certificate Could Open Door to Russian, Chinese Shots

by Bloomberg

The European Union will propose a certificate that could ease travel for those who have taken EU-approved vaccines as well as others, like the Chinese and Russian shots, that have only received emergency national authorizations.

The “EU Covid Card/digital green certificate” will comprise three documents that will specify if the holder has gotten a vaccine and which one; the results of a coronavirus test if taken; and details on whether they have recovered from a Covid-19 infection, according to a person familiar with the European Commission’s draft regulation.

The EU is racing to develop a system that will allow the 27 member states, and those in the European Economic Area, to reopen their doors to travel while also preventing an escalation in the spread of the coronavirus. The bloc’s leaders unanimously agreed last month on a broad outline for the vaccine certificates, which are a priority for tourism dependent countries like Greece and Cyprus.

“The proposal aims to facilitate the exercise of the right to free movement within the EU during the Covid-19 pandemic by establishing a common framework for the issuance and acceptance of interoperable certificates on Covid-19 vaccination, testing and recovery,” according to the current draft, which is subject to change.

Slow Rollout

The vaccination pass would cover all shots that have been authorized by the European Medicines Agency as well as those that have been granted emergency authorization by individual countries, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the process is private. Hungary for one has already started inoculating its population with vaccines manufactured in Russia and China.

The decision to include shots in the certificate that haven’t received European authorization could prove controversial for some member states who argue that the countries are using vaccines as geopolitical propaganda tools. But it will avoid arguments and restrictions for those countries that have given the shots their approval.

The EU is struggling to boost its vaccination numbers, which have fallen behind other regions. The bloc so far has given 9.4 shots per 100 people, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker. That compares with more than 27 doses in the U.S. and more than 35 in the U.K.

The commission, the EU’s executive arm, still maintains that it’s on track to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of its adult population by the end of the summer. The bloc also sees deliveries ramping up to as much as 100 million doses a month by the end of March.

Tourist Season

The new proposal aims to ensure that restrictions on free movement currently in place to limit the pandemic can be lifted in a coordinated manner. Details in the draft are likely to change ahead of publication, said the person. The regulation will be published on March 17.

The plan comes as several member states have started to weigh options for their own vaccine passports in a bid to save their summer tourism season.

“Tourists will be welcomed if before travel they’re either vaccinated or have antibodies or have been tested negative,” Greece’s Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis told ITB Berlin.

“Greece is ready with a complete protocol for summer 2021.”

The aim of the proposed framework is to enable interoperability between member states’ vaccination and testing systems and to avoid the introduction of unilateral measures that lead to border restrictions and discrimination between EU citizens.

Data Safety

The draft makes clear that a vaccine certificate shouldn’t become a pre-condition to exercise free movement nor is it an obligation to be vaccinated.

Data included in the certificates will not be centralized but would function through a secure, decentralized verification system, according to the draft. Information in the certificates would include a person’s name, passport or identity card number, date of birth, the vaccine they have taken and the number of doses administered. Similar data would be collected for test results. Each certificate would have a unique identifier.

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