Europe Seeks Common Stance on How Long Covid Vaccinations Last
(Bloomberg) -- European Union countries are pushing for an agreement on how long Covid-19 vaccinations protect people and how to manage booster shots as they try to counter the pandemic’s fourth wave and safeguard free travel.
“We need to agree on a common rule for when vaccines expire, and when the booster should be administered,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters Tuesday as European affairs ministers met in Brussels. “That can’t be different in Luxembourg to how it is in Greece or in Germany or in France. That’s totally against the interests of European citizens.”
The ministers are discussing ways to intensify vaccination campaigns against Covid-19 that have produced uneven results in the EU, with eastern nations plagued by low success rates. They will also consider how to counter disinformation about inoculations.
“Boosters are the number one priority,” Michael Roth, a deputy German foreign minister, said before the talks. “That also impacts the digital vaccine pass. We need to do more work here to make sure that as many people as possible can move freely around the EU.”
European governments are adopting a jumble of contrasting policies as the disease accelerates. Austria has re-imposed a lockdown, Germany says it can’t rule one out, and France, where Prime Minister Jean Castex tested positive, is reinforcing health-pass checks in enclosed areas. Belgium has ordered mandatory working from home four days a week.
Several ministers said EU states should agree on how soon booster shots are needed after a previous second vaccination, and on how to incorporate boosters into the Covid-19 vaccination certificates that governments across the bloc are using to regulate travel and access to a wide range of facilities.
“Many underestimated the challenge” posed by the pandemic, said Gasper Dovzan, state secretary at Slovenia’s foreign affairs ministry.
Dovzan, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, urged more efforts “to overcome vaccination hesitancy, to fight fake news on side effects and on the consequences, and of course encourage citizens to get vaccinated” to protect health systems and keep the internal market functioning.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, will adopt changes to the bloc’s travel rules this week that will “promote and acknowledge the important role of EU Digital Covid Certificate that travelers nowadays carry,” Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told the European Parliament on Monday.
The commission is due to submit proposals to the bloc’s ambassadors Wednesday on how to revise recommendations on non-essential travel between the EU and third countries, according to EU diplomats who declined to be named speaking about confidential preparations.
There are currently no plans to curb travel, but the evolution of the pandemic and potential lockdowns may end up affecting travel even for people who have been vaccinated.
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