Encouraging intra-EU travel

The European Commission has adopted rules relating to the EU Digital COVID Certificate, establishing a binding acceptance period of 9 months (270 days) of vaccination certificates for the purposes of intra-EU travel.  It states that a clear and uniform acceptance period for vaccination certificates will guarantee that travel measures continue to be coordinated.

The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a success story of the EU. The Certificate continues to facilitate safe travel for citizens across the European Union. 807 million certificates were issued in the EU. The EU Digital COVID Certificate has set a global standard: 60 countries and territories across five continents have joined the system.

The new rules for intra-EU travel harmonise the different rules across Member States. This validity period 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.

The new rules on the acceptance period of vaccination certificates apply for the purposes of travel. When introducing different rules to use the certificates at national level, Member States are encouraged to align them to these new rules to provide certainty for travellers and reduce disruptions.

The Commission has also adapted the rules for the encoding of vaccination certificates. This is necessary to ensure that vaccination certificates showing completion of the primary series can always be distinguished from vaccination certificates issued following a booster dose.

As COVID-19 vaccine booster doses are now being rolled out, recently, more and more countries have adopted rules as to how long vaccination certificates indicating the completion of the primary vaccination series should be accepted. These take into account that vaccine-induced protection from infection with COVID-19 appears to be waning over time. These rules either apply to domestic use-cases only or also to the use of vaccination certificates for the purpose of travel.

Vaccination certificates will be accepted for a period of nine months since the administration of the last dose of the primary vaccination. For a single-dose vaccine, this means 270 days from the first and only shot. For a two-dose vaccine it means 270 days from the second shot, or, in line with the vaccination strategy of the Member State of vaccination, the first and only shot after having recovered from the virus.

Under these new EU rules for intra-EU travel, Member States must accept any vaccination certificate that has been issued less than nine months since the administration of the last dose of the primary vaccination. Member States are not able to allow a shorter nor for a longer acceptance period.

Member States must take all necessary steps to ensure access to vaccination for those population groups whose previously issued vaccination certificates approach the limit of the standard acceptance period.

The acceptance period will not be encoded in the certificate itself. Instead, the mobile applications used to verify the EU Digital COVID Certificates will be adjusted: If the date of vaccination is longer than 270 days ago, the mobile application used for verification will indicate the certificate as expired.

To allow for sufficient time for technical implementation of the acceptance period and for Member States’ booster vaccination campaigns, these new rules will apply from 1 February 2022.