EU needs COVID vaccine boosters if you want to travel to another country

EU needs COVID vaccine boosters if you want to travel to another country

On June 30, 2020, a passenger wearing a protective face mask talks on the phone at Fiumicino Airport on the day the EU governments agreed a safe list of 14 countries that will allow non-essential travel starting from July, following the coronaviruses outbreak in Rome, Italy. REUTERS Guglielmo Mangiapane

BRUSSELS, Nov 25 Reuters -- European Union residents will need COVID 19 vaccine boosters if they want to travel to another country in the bloc next summer without tests or quarantines, the European Commission proposed on Thursday.

The EU executive also proposed accepting all vaccines approved by the World Health Organization for travel purposes, which would allow for non-essential travel to the EU from outside the bloc for people who have been vaccinated with Chinese shots and vaccines made in India.

The Commission wants to harmonise rules across the 27 EU nations in order to allow free movement, a cornerstone of the European Union, but is facing new restrictions as cases break records in Europe and many EU countries roll out booster doses.

It made its proposals as Europe became the centre of the COVID 19 pandemic even after successful vaccination campaigns, prompting some countries to consider new curbs on movement as the continent heads into winter.

The EU governments, which will need to approve the Commission recommendation, kicked off the debate on the topic on Tuesday. Greece proposed on Wednesday that people should be able to travel freely if they have received a dose in the past six months.

The executive Commission is proposing that people should be considered covered if the final dose of their primary vaccine is within the last nine months, and that this update should apply from Jan. 10.

Most EU residents who were vaccinated received their final dose in the second and third quarters of 2021, so their coverage would probably expire by the middle of next year.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the current vaccination coverage was 65% of the EU population.

We need to reach higher vaccination rates urgently to make sure everyone can travel and live as safely as possible. She said that we need to strengthen our immunity with booster vaccines.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control recommended vaccine boosters for adults, with priority for those over 40.

The Commission said there were no studies yet addressing the effectiveness of booster shots on transmission of COVID-19, but they said it was likely that they provided longer protection than provided by initial shots.

The EU coordination on COVID passes, which show if a holder is fully vaccinated or has had a negative test or recovered from an infection, has allowed an easing of travel restrictions.

Passes, typically viewed on mobile devices, are issued by individual countries but are recognized across the bloc.

Under the new system, only those who have been vaccinated or recovered would be able to enter the EU for non-essential travel regardless of where they travel from. Travellers from countries deemed safe can enter a country with only a negative test, but the list of safe countries would be discontinued.

The EU commission has urged EU governments to allow non-essential travel from outside the bloc for people vaccinated with jabs who have completed the WHO emergency use listing process, as well as those vaccinated with EU-approved vaccines.

The EU has so far authorised vaccines produced by Pfizer-BionTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, when they are produced in Europe and Johnson Johnson.

In addition to these shots, the WHO has approved the vaccines produced by Chinese manufacturers Sinopharm and Sinovac and Indian company Bharat Biotech. AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the Serum Institute in India.

Most EU countries do not accept people vaccinated with vaccines that have not been approved in the EU.

As a safeguard, the Commission proposed that proof of a negative molecular test be required for all travellers who have been vaccinated with a WHO approved vaccine that is not approved in the EU.

It is not clear whether EU governments will follow this recommendation.