The Digital Vaccination Certificate
We all want our right back to move freely within the European Union. I believe that a unified, EU-wide recognised Vaccination Certificate (Digital Green Certification) can help us achieve that. We have already lost much time discussing it. Now let us put words into practice. The European Parliament will adopt the certificate in an urgency procedure to make sure the certificate can be used this summer.
Uncoordinated internal border controls during the pandemic caused societal and economic disruption. With the Digital Green Certificate, citizens will be able to visit their families, work across borders and go for holidays without having to quarantine upon their arrival or return. This will not only restart the economy, tourism and create new jobs, but it will also keep the virus in check.
On 17 March 2021, the European Commission proposed the creation of a Digital Green (Vaccination) Certificate to facilitate safe free movement inside the EU during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The certificate will be proof that a person has received a vaccine, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19 and has natural immunity. The certificate will contain necessary key information such as name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccines/test/recovery and a unique identifier.
Member States will remain responsible to decide which public health restrictions they waive for holders of the certificate, but will have to apply such waivers in the same way to every EU citizen holding a Digital Green Certificate. The certificate will waive free movement restrictions for people vaccinated with vaccines which have received EU market authorisation (by the EMA). If Member States want to extend this to EU travellers that have received other vaccines, they may do so.
Following the adoption of the proposal in the Parliament in April, the negotiations with the Member States are expected to begin in May.
A Digital Vaccination Certificate is only one element in a host of measures necessary to stop the virus, to restart the economy and to get our old lives back. The most important tool is a fast rollout of vaccinations. Also, certain social distancing measures must stay in place as long as the majority of the population is not yet vaccinated. If vaccine producers do not meet their contractual obligations, Member States must be able to restrict vaccine exports. If the whole world is putting their population first, Europe cannot be the only one to play by the rules.
At the European Council of 25 March, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented new numbers on vaccine delivery and vaccine exports. In particular one number is striking: 77 million doses of Covid-vaccines have been exported from the EU since December 2020. The Members of the European Council supported the Commission’s recent updated vaccine export authorisation mechanism.
The European Council also discussed the complaint voiced by a few Member States about vaccine distribution. In conclusion, they “invited the Committee of Permanent Representatives to address the issue of the speed of deliveries of vaccines when allocating the 10 million BioNTech-Pfizer accelerated doses in the second quarter of 2021 in a spirit of solidarity.”
On 24 March, the Commission presented its reiterated transparency and authorisation mechanism. The new regulation introduces two changes to the existing mechanism: First, Member States and the Commission should also consider reciprocity (does the destination country restrict its own exports of vaccines or their raw materials, either by law or other means?) and second, proportionality (are the conditions prevailing in the destination country better or worse than the EU’s, in particular its epidemiological situation, its vaccination rate and its access to vaccines?). Member States and the Commission should assess whether the requested exports do not pose a threat to the security of supply of vaccines and their components in the Union. In addition, the new act includes 17 countries previously exempted in the scope. So far, of 381 export requests, 380 have been approved. Until now, the blocked export of around 250.000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Australia by Italy remains the only one.
After vaccination with AstraZeneca had come to a precautionary halt in many Member States, the EMA declared on 18 March that the benefits of AstraZeneca would still outway the risks. Most Member States have restarted vaccinating AstraZeneca, with the notably exemption of Denmark, which extended the vaccine suspension. Some member states like France however restricted the use on specific groups of people. 29 Million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines were found by Italian police in a factory in Italy. According to the company, about half would be destined for the EU, while the other half was destined for low-income countries via COVAX. On 26 March, Commissioner Breton stated that “We have the tools and will make sure everything stays in Europe until the company will come back to its commitments,” in relation to further exports of AstraZeneca.
On Friday 26 March, EMA announced the approval of two additional vaccine production sites in Leiden, Netherlands and in Marburg, Germany. While Leiden is used for AstraZeneca, Marburg is used for BioNTech/Pfizer.