In case you were thinking about traveling abroad this summer after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, all U.S. citizens will need a vaccine passport to travel to Europe.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the New York Times on Sunday that tourists will need to have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to travel to any of the 27 member states of the European Union. “All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A. [European Medicines Agency],” von der Leyen said.
The three vaccines being deployed in the United States — Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson — have been approved by the E.M.A. European regulators also gave the go-ahead on the AstraZeneca vaccine, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still reviewing it for approval.
The specifics of how American tourists will have to provide proof of vaccination are still being worked out. Officials in Brussels told the Times a “low-tech solution” will suffice as the United States and international governments work out the kinks of delivering a program “acceptable and readable in the European Union, and vice versa.” The Brussels officials explained that an American tourist would receive a “vaccine certificate” for the European Union after arriving and demonstrating proof of a document validated by the U.S. government, reinforcing many Americans’ concerns about federally issued vaccine passports in the United States.
In April, the White House claimed the U.S. government would not mandate vaccine passports domestically, but internationally, proof of vaccination is a different story. In March, the Washington Post spoke to five White House administration officials who said coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients is leading an effort to develop vaccine passports with the private sector. Thirty international airlines sent a letter to Zients asking for Biden to move swiftly on vaccine passports.
The EU proposed a “Digital Green Certificate” program on March 17 that provides electronic proof of whether someone has been vaccinated, received a negative COVID-19 test, or recovered from the virus. The certificates, which are issued by member state governments for travel, are digital through a QR code, but travelers can request a paper copy. “The Digital Green Certificate contains necessary key information such as name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccine/ test/recovery and a unique identifier,” the website notes, and they are planned to be included in “national health records systems.”
Europe has maintained strict precautions. As of Jan. 28, only travelers from identified low COVID-19 transmission-level countries, such as New Zealand and South Korea, have been permitted to enter EU states.