There will be fundamental changes made to the European Union’s Digital Covid Certificate, according to an update to the Certificate’s page on the European Commission’s website.
All the changes listed below will take effect from 1 February 2022.
First, the Commission is changing the length of validity for vaccines recognized under the certificate.
The new length of vaccine validity will be shortened to 9 months, or 270 days, after the initial doses have been received. This applies to the standard EU-approved two-dose vaccines or one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
The Commission is also suggesting that Member States also shorten their length of acceptance of vaccination status to match theirs.
As the Commission explains, the validity period has been shortened to “9 months (precisely 270 days) of vaccination certificates, following a primary 2-dose vaccination series or 1-dose series for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, for the purposes of intra-EU travel. A clear and uniform acceptance period for vaccination certificates will guarantee that travel measures among the EU countries continue to be coordinated,” the update reads.
According to the updated page, the vaccine validity period of 9 months is consistent with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) recommendation of a validity of 6 months, with the Commission adding a 3-month grace period.
“The validity period of 9 months takes into account the guidance of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, according to which booster doses are recommended at the latest six months after the completion of the first vaccination cycle. The Certificate will remain valid for a grace period of an additional three months beyond those six months to ensure that national vaccination campaigns can adjust and citizens will have access to booster doses,” the update reads.
Another updated aspect of the certificate is a “person-based approach.”
Taking this approach is supposed to mean that a holder of the Digital Covid Certificate should not be subject to any further restrictions, which can include Covid tests or quarantine.
The possibility of booster shots being added as a requirement for the certificate was also addressed, with the Commission concluding that there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that they are effective. This means that as of writing, there is no requirement for holders of the certificate to get booster shots to keep their certificates.
Other guidance from the Commission includes the idea that Member States should open up “systematically” to vaccinated travelers from third countries, given that their vaccines are approved by the World Health Organization and/or EU.
Finally, the Commission recommends that Member States accept non-EU vaccination and recovery certificates that are considered equivalent to the EU’s own vaccine passports.
The EU Digital Covid Certificate is Europe’s brand of a vaccine passport that allows people to have freedom of movement within the EU, which is a right that has been blocked by governments in Europe since the start of the Pandemic.
Individual Member States have also created their own vaccine passports on top of the EU Digital Covid Certificate.
The certificate came into effect on 1 July 2021 and is intended to only be required for no more than one year. However, with the intensity and swiftness of the EU’s revocation of fundamental rights, such as the freedom of movement within Europe, it is likely that the certificates will be required for longer than one year to move unrestricted.