People living in the European Union who want to travel around the bloc without being tested or going into quarantine should get a Covid booster jab nine months after their original vaccination, the European Commission has proposed.
The EU’s executive body said there should be a standard nine-month acceptance period for vaccines across the bloc, in an attempt to do away with a confusing mix of rules across the 27 member states.
The Commission is also expected to propose similar measures for travellers coming into the EU.
The nine-month period reflects scientific advice that the first round of vaccines wanes after six months, adding three months to allow governments to get booster-shot programmes up and running.
Both draft laws would have to be approved by EU member states before coming into force, which is expected in 2022.
Didier Reynders, the EU commissioner for justice, described the policy as a move to a person-based approach, rather than classifying travellers purely by their country of departure.
“Our main objective is avoid diverging measures throughout the EU,” Reynders said. “This also applies to the question of boosters, which will be essential to fight the virus. Among other measures, we propose today that the Council [of EU ministers] agrees on a standard validity period for vaccination certificates issued following the primary series. Agreeing on this proposal will be crucial for the months ahead and the protection of the safe free movement for citizens.”
Under the plans, cross-border commuters, lorry drivers and children under 12 would continue to be exempt from travel rules, although the list of exempt groups has been reduced.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, urged European citizens to get vaccinated, after EU health agencies recommended booster jabs earlier this week as part of a strategy to stem a surge in infections.
Von der Leyen, a trained medical doctor, said: “A quarter of EU adults are still not fully vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated, you are more at risk of having severe Covid-19 symptoms. Vaccination protects you, and the others.”
France said on Thursday it would make Covid-19 booster shots available to all adults, toughen rules on wearing face masks and ramp-up health pass checks as it seeks to curb a fifth wave of infections that risks undermining its economic recovery.
The number of infections is doubling every 11 days in France, but officials said there was no need to follow European countries such as Austria that have reimposed lockdowns.
The French health minister, Olivier Véran, said anyone aged 18 or over would be eligible for booster jabs and that the period between full vaccination and the booster shots would be shortened to five months instead of six.
Véran said France currently held about 25m vaccine doses, enough to accelerate the booster campaign. Booster shots are currently available only to over-65s and to those with underlying health issues.