The European Parliament has reached consensus on a European Union-wide vaccine passport, an “EU Digital COVID Certificate,” 24.hu reports. The agreement still needs to get through the Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) and be confirmed finally in June. The agreement will only recognize vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency, leaving it up to member states to decide whether they will accept other inoculations.
Europe’s ruling on its vaccination travel pass will be especially beneficial to people who travel around the Schengen Zone frequently for work, school, or doctors appointments, since it will make it easier for EU member states to accept one another’s national immunity certificates.
Free Covid Tests to Non-EMA Vaccinated People
There have been a number of amendments to the original agreement, such as making it valid for 12 months instead of the original idea of keeping it valid until the end of the pandemic.
The European Commission has also promised to set aside 100 million Euros from the Emergency Support Instrument to purchase Covid testing kits. This is likely to address those individuals vaccinated with non-EMA approved vaccines in Europe, since they get the same benefits if they test negative for the virus.
These specific tests will be free, but will only be available to individuals who register for the EU Digital COVID Certificate.
European Commission: Travel is a Fundamental Right
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, welcomed the agreement, saying that the aim is to have it finalized before summer. It is the fundamental right of EU citizens to travel within the union’s territory, which means the EU certificate will be available to every citizen.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate is free of charge, secure and accessible to all. It will cover vaccination, test and recovery offering different options to the citizens. It fully respects citizens’ fundamental rights, including protection of personal data.”
Based on the current agreement, the EU Digital COVID Certificate will be:
- Able to cover vaccination, Covid tests, and recovery from the virus
- Available on paper and digitally
- Free and available to all citizens
- Available for use on a national level as well
Furthermore, EU member states will not be able to impose additional travel restrictions on holders of the EU immunity certificate unless it is crucial for safeguarding public health.
While there are still a number of steps and agreements to get through before the certificate is put to use, the general idea of what the travel certificate will look like is clear. If it makes it through all the final agreements, Europeans will be able to use the certificate by July first.
Is There a Change for Sputnik V and Sinopharm?
Hungary’s non-EMA approved vaccines have faced controversy in Europe. Despite bringing Hungary noticeably ahead of the rest of the EU, the Russian and Chinese vaccine may give the Hungarians vaccinated with them some obstacles.
While Austria has stated that it will accept vaccines licensed by EMA or the World Health Organization, German officials have made it quite clear that they will only be allowing EMA approved vaccinations. Although Sinopharm has been licensed by WHO, the Russian Sputnik V is still seeking approval from EMA.
Regardless of whether certain countries decide to limit their entries to EMA vaccines only, Hungarians vaccinated with Sinopharm and Sputnik V will still be able to access free testing for the virus, which will give them the same ability to travel.
Foreign Minister: Hungary will oppose discrimination based on vaccines
Concerning the EU’s planned vaccine passports, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said any debate on the matter was premature as long as the bloc’s average vaccination rate was around 30 percent and many member states were struggling to build public trust in and procure vaccines.
“Let’s have enough vaccines first and let’s have people vaccinated,” he said, adding that Hungary will oppose discrimination based on vaccines when it comes to the vaccine passports and rules on entry.
Featured photo illustration by MTI/EPA/Etienne Laurent