The European Union completed all necessary legislative procedures for a European COVID-19 vaccine passport to become effective, on 14 June, when the heads of the three main EU institutions – Parliament, Commission and Council – signed a regulation to the document at the official signing ceremony.
The European Union hopes that the document will help restore freedom of movement in the bloc to all those who have been vaccinated with one of the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and who have recently recovered from the virus and can also prove it. Like those who tested negative.
The European COVID-19 Vaccine Travel Passport has raised the hopes of many that within a short time, they will be able to travel to Europe, with minimal entry procedures, TheSchengen.com reports.
Thirteen countries have already issued the passport, two weeks before the document was scheduled to be released on July 1, including Germany, Greece and Spain.
However, while the document is very promising for a large portion of travelers around the world who plan to head to the European Union this summer, many may not qualify for it despite being vaccinated.
Only 4 vaccines have been approved by the European Medicines Agency
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Union agency responsible for the evaluation and supervision of medicinal products, has approved only four vaccines against coronavirus so far, namely:
Comirnaty (BioNTech, Pfizer) COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna Vaxzevria (formerly COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca) COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
On the other hand, the following four are currently under a rolling review of the EMA, but their approval has yet to be decided:
CVnCoV (CureVac) NVX-CoV2373 (Novavax) Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) COVID-19 Vaccine (Vero Cell) Inactivated (Sinovac)
However, according to the EU’s COVID-19 Vaccine Passport for Travel Regulation, member states are obligated to issue and accept passports only for those who have been vaccinated with one of the vaccines already approved by the EMA.
It remains up to the governments of member states to decide whether they want to accept vaccines that have not yet been approved.
“When it comes to waiving restrictions on freedom of movement, Member States will have to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines that have received marketing authorization from the European Union. Member states may decide to extend this also to travelers from the European Union who have received another vaccine,” the Commission’s fact sheet on the document explains.
The same also indicates that Member States can decide for themselves whether to accept the vaccination document after one dose or after giving both doses.
Most of the European Union and Schengen countries say “no” to vaccines that have not yet been approved
Although they are free to accept certificates for vaccines that have not yet been approved by the EMA, the majority of member states of the European Union and the Schengen area have already decided not to.
Iceland, the first country in Europe to reopen borders to those vaccinated, initially made it clear that those vaccinated with one of the vaccines authorized by the EMA or the World Health Organization would benefit from reopening the borders.
On June 4, the French government revealed the roadmap strategy for reopening borders for travelers from European Union and Schengen area member states, as well as travelers from third countries, noting that the facilitated entry rules for those vaccinated apply only to vaccinated travelers. Using one of the EMA-approved vaccines, not others, such as the Russian and Indian vaccines.
Some time ago, Lithuania made clear its position that it did not intend to accept the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and, as a result, would not classify those vaccinated as immunized.
“They say, Sputnik V is good, but Putin does not care about using it as a cure for the Russian people – he presents it to the world as another hybrid weapon of division and governance. The Lithuanian prime minister said again at the end of last March.
Other countries have also indicated that they do not intend to accept these vaccines until they have been approved by the World Health Organization or the World Health Organization.
Greece, Slovenia and Hungary are among the countries that will accept Sputnik V
On May 14, Greece reopened its borders to a broader list of third countries, including Russia. As previously promised, Greece has accepted the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine as valid, and those vaccinated with it are eligible to enter the country.
The decision was made in an effort to further help the Greek tourism sector recover from the financial loss caused by the virus, by reopening in time for the summer season.
Slovenia also accepts Sputnik V, in addition to the Chinese coronavirus vaccines, Sinopharm and Sinovac/CoronaVac. The former Yugoslav country now allows travelers who have been vaccinated with these as well as EMA-approved vaccines, to enter its territory without restrictions, including for tourism purposes.
Hungary, the world country with the most approved vaccines, accepts not only Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm, but also Serum Institute’s Covishield in India, as well as Convidecia vaccine by CanSinoBIO, which is also a Chinese vaccine.
The country has already entered into a bilateral agreement with several countries around the world to accept certificates of COVID-19, including vaccines that have not been approved by the EMA.