Brussels says the EU’s COVID pass — used for cross-border travel — will expire nine months after the last vaccine dose.
It said a booster shot will be required to extend its validity.
In a travel recommendation unveiled on Thursday afternoon, the European Commission updated the validity of the COVID pass — which has been in place since the early summer — in order to take into consideration the ongoing coronavirus surge and the roll-out of booster shots.
Under the new rules, the COVID pass — called the EU Digital COVID Certificate — will only be valid for cross-border travel during the nine months following the last vaccine dose of the so-called “primary schedule”: one dose for the Johnson & Johnson jab and two doses for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Recently released data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) shows vaccine protection wanes after the first six months and recommends having a booster shot to prolong the immunity beyond that timeframe.
The European Commission says three extra months on top of the six will give more flexibility to EU countries in their inoculation campaigns. Health policy is a national competence and each country develops its own vaccine rollout. The purchase of the shots is, however, centralised by the EU through common procurement agreements.
The executive is now assessing how long the booster shot will remain valid.
The main rules of the system will remain in place: pass-holders have the right to be exempted from travel restrictions, such as testing and quarantine, regardless of the EU country they come from.
Citizens who do not have the certificate will be allowed to travel but can be subject to extra requirements before or after their arrival.
Children aged over 12 will have to follow the same rules as adults.
“It is evident that the pandemic is not yet over,” said Didier Reynders, the European Commissioner for justice. “Travel rules need to take into account this volatile situation.”
The EU initially launched the digital pass with a validity of 12 months after its entry into force on July 1. As of today, more than 600 million certificates have been issued, with over 50 countries connected to the system, including the 27 EU countries.
The news come on the same day as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) authorised the use of the Pfizer vaccine on children aged from 5 to 11 years.
As of today, over 76% of the EU adult population is fully vaccinated, although important differences between member states remain entrenched.