The European Union’s executive arm will urge member states to set a target for vaccinating at least 70% of the bloc’s population by this summer, according to a draft of the latest pandemic response recommendations due to be released Tuesday.
The European Commission will also vow to agree with member states by the end of this month on a protocol for vaccination certificates “which can be recognized and used in health systems across the EU — and which could be scaled up globally in coordination with the World Health Organization,” according to the draft of the document seen by Bloomberg.
Such certificates could replace quarantines and test-requirements, proving that “you are no longer high-risk for travel.”
The draft policy paper, which is still subject to changes until it’s formally adopted on Tuesday, comes amid an increase in infections that has forced EU governments to prolong recession-inducing lockdowns. It also follows an underwhelming rollout of vaccinations across the continent that has left the EU lagging behind the US, the UK and other developed nations.
EU leaders will seek ways to up their game when they hold a video conference on Thursday, which is meant to be informed by the latest commission proposals. Among the most controversial issues on the table is a push for the introduction of vaccination certificates that would allow travel to resume — at least for those who receive the jab.
The idea, which the commission paper appears to adopt, reflects the eagerness of tourism-dependent economies like Greece to salvage this summer’s tourism season. Countries such as France, however, are reluctant to adopt the use of such certificates for the time being, as they would appear to make vaccines mandatory, at a time when they aren’t available to everyone due to supply constraints.
“To ensure an ambitious vaccination effort concrete targets are essential,” the commission’s document also says. “By March 2021, member states should have vaccinated a minimum of 80% of health and social care professionals and people over 80 years old,” and “by summer 2021, member states should have vaccinated a minimum of 70% of the adult population.”
The commission’s recommendations, which aren’t binding for member states, also include:
- Genome sequencing of at least 5% — and preferably 10% — of all positive coronavirus tests to identify and track new variants
- Expansion of the use of rapid-tests
- “Strongly” discouraging all non-essential travel to anywhere until the epidemiological situation improves
- Replacing blanket travel bans with more targeted measures
The commission will also vow “to speed up the approval process for new production facilities” and help member states set up vaccination centers and electronic reservation systems for vaccination. The proposals reflect concerns among member states that current production capacity for the approved vaccines is insufficient.