There are inequalities around vaccine distribution. But that doesn't mean countries should say "oh well" and take actions which will increase public health risks, which is precisely what happens when masses of unvaccinated people travel across international borders.
European Union COVID-19 certificates intended to free up travel must prevent discrimination against those not vaccinated by including information on whether people have been tested or have recovered, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.
The European Commission is expected to release its final proposal for COVID-19 “green digital certificates” next week, with southern countries reliant on tourism hoping they will open up this year’s summer season.
But they ran into opposition from countries including Germany and Belgium, which said vaccination is neither obligatory nor currently available to all those willing to accept it.
While the proposal aims to “facilitate free movement” during the pandemic, it says any proof of vaccination must not discriminate against those who refuse the shot or cannot get inoculated.
It remained unclear how this would work in practice, as member states would still need to decide how people who did not have evidence of vaccination would be treated if they wished to cross frontiers.
The draft also leaves it up to the 27 member states to make a call on waiving travel restrictions only for those vaccinated with shots authorised for the whole bloc by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), or also for people who received jabs allowed unilaterally by specific countries.
Hungary and Slovakia have already bought the Russian Sputnik vaccine despite it not being authorised by the EMA. The agency has recommended four Western vaccines for use so far.
With competing goals for the proposed COVID-19 certificates, EU leaders – much criticised for a slow vaccination roll-out – are expected to have a heated discussion on the proposal later this month.
Photo credit: Patrons at an outdoor cafe in St. Paul de Vence, France. Skift