A Covid vaccine booster shot - received at most nine months after your previous jab - is required from today (February 1) for over 18s to maintain easy travel within the EU.
The rule comes as part of an update to the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) scheme, and was announced on December 21.
Previously, there was no EU-wide policy on expiry dates for Covid vaccines. Some countries, such as Italy (six months) and France (seven months, set to become four months), have already introduced their own expiry dates that apply domestically.
As an alternative, for easier travel around the EU you can also use proof of a negative Covid test (PCR tests valid for 72 hours and antigen tests valid for 48 hours), or proof of having recovered from Covid, which is a positive Covid test taken between 11 days and six months prior.
Having one of these documents will allow people to avoid heavier restrictions when travelling (such as quarantines).
Some EU countries may choose to add additional rules or restrictions.
What is an EU Digital Covid Certificate?
An EU Digital Covid Certificate is proof of being fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), proof of a negative Covid test (PCR tests valid for 72 hours and antigen tests valid for 48 hours), or proof of having recovered from Covid.
Any Covid vaccine or test certificate issued in France is valid both as part of France’s health pass / vaccine pass schemes and the EU’s Digital Covid Certificate scheme.
What changes from today regarding EU travel?
The French Health Ministry has confirmed to The Connexion that the EU’s change will apply from today for people travelling from France to other EU countries.
A statement from the European Commission says:
“The validity period of nine months takes into account the guidance of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, according to which booster doses are recommended at the latest six months after the completion of the first vaccination cycle.
“The certificate will remain valid for a grace period of an additional three months beyond those six months to ensure that national vaccination campaigns can adjust and citizens will have access to booster doses.”
A spokesperson for the European Commission told The Connexion that it will regularly re-evaluate the “approach regarding the acceptance period” of the DCCs in relation to booster doses, based on emerging scientific evidence.
The DCCs will be updated to record booster doses in the following way:
They will show 3/3 for a booster dose given after a person has received two doses of a dose-vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, etc.)
They will show 2/1 for a booster dose given after a person has received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson & Johnson), or after a person has had one vaccine dose after having had Covid
We asked the Commission for clarification on how this rule will affect children and were informed that there are currently no recommendations from the EMA to administer booster doses to persons below the age of 18.
This suggests that minors will not have to have a booster for their vaccination certificates to remain a valid part of the DCCs from today.
European member states have agreed that under 18s travelling in the EU with their parents should be exempt from quarantine if their parents are (i.e. if their parents are fully vaccinated).
Additionally, children under 12 should be exempt from travel-related testing, the EU Commission states.
France’s booster dose time frame
France has a separate policy to the EU on booster doses that applies domestically.
As part of the country’s vaccine pass (pass vaccinal) scheme, adults are required to have had a booster dose no more than seven months after their previous jab in order to enter the majority of leisure-orientated public venues.
This time-frame will be reduced to four months from February 15.
This means that if today (February 1) an adult in France received their last Covid vaccine dose eight months ago, they cannot enter their local cafe, but they can fly to Spain using their vaccination certificate as part of the EU’s DCC scheme.
It should be noted that an increasing number of EU countries are introducing their own rules on booster doses, and the validity of a person’s vaccination certificate is likely to vary from one country to the next.
Spain, for example, recently introduced a period of nine months before a vaccination certificate becomes invalid.
Booster doses and UK travel
There is currently no booster dose requirement in the UK.
This means that a person who has been vaccinated with, for example, two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, is considered fully vaccinated by the UK, with no expiry date on the certificate.
The UK is also set to ease travel rules on February 11, with pre-departure and post-arrival tests to be dropped for fully-vaccinated travellers. .
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on December 4 that people should come forward to get their booster Covid shot because they are likely to be needed for travel to many countries within weeks.
He said that having a booster in order to travel would become “the norm” very soon.
There is no indication as yet that the UK will update its definition of fully vaccinated to include booster doses.