The EU’s Covid digital certificate – its vaccine “passport” – is being rolled out in the 27 member countries.
Who can use it and what does it mean for UK travelers to Europe?
What is the Covid digital certificate?
- been vaccinated against Covid-19
- recently had a negative PCR test for the virus
- recently recovered from Covid-19
It is available and recognized by the 27 EU Member States, as well as Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
It’s free – and all EU citizens, as well as third country nationals staying or living legally in the Member States (with the right to travel to other Member States) can download or get a copy paper.
Some countries have already used the certificate on a voluntary basis – but it was officially introduced on July 1 with a six-week phase-in period.
The individual’s data remains on the certificate and is not stored or retained when verified – at an airport, for example.
Why is this needed?
It is hoped that the certificate will facilitate the movement of people within the EU.
This is not a travel document – they will always need to have a passport or other piece of identification.
But anyone holding a certificate should, in principle, be exempt from testing or quarantine when crossing an international border.
Is it the same as the UK’s NHS Covid Pass?
It’s not the same – but both display the same information and aim to make it easy for someone to display their Covid status.
For people aged 16 and over in England, it shows proof of:
- a negative PCR or lateral flow test within the last 48 hours
- recovery from Covid-19
Will the EU recognize the NHS Covid Pass?
Not yet – but some countries, like Greece and Spain, are already accepting it.
If he is convinced that a non-EU certificate conforms to EU “standards and systems”, he can decide to accept it in all 27 countries.
The UK government says free and open travel is a priority.
“We urge the European Commission to reopen travel routes from the UK,” an official said.
If you are an EU national who has been vaccinated in the UK, it is up to your home country to decide if you are eligible for the EU certificate.
Does it matter what vaccine someone receives?
- the Pfizer-BioNTech the vaccine is sometimes called Commirnaty
- Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZ) is also known as Vaxzevria
- Modern is also known as Spikevax
- Janssen (sometimes called Johnson & Johnson vaccine) is the same as in UK
But the AZ vaccine doses made by the Serum Institute in India (SII) are also known by a third name – Covishield.
And although they are identical to those made in Europe, the EU has not approved them for use.
Does it matter that Covishield is not approved by the EU?
Covishield is widely used in poorer countries, via the Covax vaccination program, and there are concerns that the EU passport will discriminate against travelers from those countries.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) does not need to approve the AZ manufacturing site in India, as the EU does not receive any doses from there.
But the Serum Institute is reportedly seeking emergency EU clearance for Covishield.
AstraZeneca also says it is working with the EMA on “the inclusion of Covishield as a recognized vaccine for vaccination passports”.
Could I have received a dose of Covishield in the UK?
If you have been told you are getting an AZ vaccine, it is possible.
Most UK AZ doses are supplied from factories in North Wales and Staffordshire.
But five million Covishield-branded doses have been shipped from India as part of the UK’s 100 million-dose AZ order.
The Department of Health will not comment on individual vaccine supplies, due to commercial and safety considerations.
Does it matter if I want to go to the EU?
If you’ve received an AZ vaccine – and you’re traveling to an EU country that accepts the NHS Covid Pass – your pass should show that you received the Vaxzevria vaccine, the European name for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“All AstraZeneca vaccines administered in the UK are the same product and appear on the NHS Covid Pass as Vaxzevria,” the Department of Health said.