Cracks are forming in the common travel policy within EU states. Austria's announcement on Monday that it would set a nine-month limit on the acceptance of European travelers' vaccination certificates from 6 December raises concerns about unilateral deviations from the common line set by the European Council Recommendation adopted last summer. Moreover, as of January 3, those vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson in Austria must have received a second dose to be able to move freely. It should be noted that Croatia has also set a maximum of nine months for the acceptance of vaccination certificates.
The Dutch government has already reacted to Austria's decision, saying that there needs to be the necessary coordination at a European level. A recommendation made by the government last June, according to Commissioner Christian Wiegand, does not include time limits for vaccination certificates (unlike 180-day recovery certificates). According to her predictions, she said, those who have received two doses of the vaccine (or one in the case of Johnson & Johnson) should not be subject to additional restrictions when traveling from one EU country to another.
The same spokesman said that Member States were being consulted "for a possible update of the recommendation" regarding booster shots, of which there may be developments in the "coming weeks". Another spokesman noted that vaccination policies are a national responsibility, "but from the outset, we emphasized the importance of Member States talking to each other and to us."
Emanuel Macron's announcement the day before yesterday that from mid-December French citizens over the age of 65 would need to have received their third installment in order for their certificates to be valid highlights the complex interaction between national policies and pan-European coordination. If France's certificate policy does not extend to foreign tourists over the age of 65 wishing to visit the country, they will face fewer restrictions than their French peers. If expanded, it would be another step in the direction of fragmentation in EU travel policies.
Contract with Valneva
Meanwhile, the European Commission yesterday approved the eighth contract with a pharmaceutical company for a COVID-19 vaccine. The contract with Valneva gives the EU the option to purchase almost 27 million doses in 2022, the possibility of adapting the vaccine to new variants of the virus, and the option to purchase up to 33 million additional doses from 2023.