EU proposes booster jab for summer travel in 2022
It wants to allow free movement across 27 EU nations but is facing new curbs as cases rise
BRUSSELS : European Union residents will need to have Covid-19 vaccine booster jabs if they want to travel to another country in the bloc next summer, according to a proposal set to be announced by the European Commission.
The European Commission wants to harmonise rules across the 27 EU nations 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.
EU governments, which will need to approve the Commission recommendation, kicked off debate on the topic on Tuesday. Greece has proposed people should be able to travel freely if they have received a vaccine dose in the past six months.
Accepting that immunity wanes over time, the executive Commission is proposing that people should be considered covered if their most recent dose was within the last nine months, an EU official told Reuters.
Given most EU residents who were vaccinated received their final doses in the second and third quarters of this year, their coverage would mostly expire by the middle of next year.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control on Wednesday recommended vaccine boosters for all adults, with priority for those over 40, in a major shift from its previous guidance which suggested extra doses for older people and those with weakened immune systems.
EU coordination on Covid passes, showing if a holder is fully vaccinated or has a recent negative test or recovery from infection, has allowed an easing of curbs on cross-border travel.
The passes, typically viewed on mobile devices, are issued by individual countries, but are recognised across the bloc.
They are now increasingly being deployed in many EU countries for access to indoor areas such as restaurants or theatres.
This development comes as infections broke records in parts of the continent.
Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Hungary all reported new highs in daily infections as winter grips Europe and people gather indoors in the run-up to Christmas, providing a perfect breeding ground for Covid-19.
New cases have jumped 23 per cent in the Americas in the last week, mostly in North America, in a sign that region might also face a resurgence of infections.
World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, acknowledging that Europe was again at the epicentre of the pandemic, warned against a "false sense of security" over the protection offered by vaccines.
"No country is out of the woods," he told reporters, adding that he hoped a consensus can be found at a World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting next week for an IP waiver for pandemic vaccines. - REUTERS