EU's Digital Covid Certificate little benefit for U.S. travelers

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Covid coronavirus vaccine [Credit: hedgehog94/Shutterstock.com]
The European Parliament's approval Wednesday of a uniform EU Digital Covid Certificate will ease travel within Europe for EU citizens and residents. Photo Credit: hedgehog94/Shutterstock.com

The European Parliament's approval Wednesday of a uniform EU Digital Covid Certificate will ease travel within Europe for EU citizens and residents. But while the certificates could eventually be extended to travelers from countries beyond the block, travelers from the U.S. aren't likely to be among the beneficiaries. 

The Parliament voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to establish the standardized digital Covid certificate, with all EU states accepting the certificate by July 1. The certificates will be in place for a year. They'll be issued free of charge and will certify that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has had a recent negative test result or has recovered from a Covid-19 infection. Holders of valid certificates, which will be issued as QR codes, will be able to move freely across the EU's 27 nations.

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Individual EU countries won't be able to impose new travel restrictions on certificate holders unless such measures are backed by scientific evidence as "necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health," the parliamentary measure states. 

As part of the certificate program, the European Commission can approve digital Covid certificates issued by non-EU countries for acceptance, as well. Approval can be granted for certificates that are technologically interoperable with the EU Digital Covid Certificate, provided that the country's vaccination standards comply with EU standards. Only the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines are approved for use in the block. 

No U.S. Covid-19 health certificate

U.S. travelers, however, aren't likely to be beneficiaries since the Biden administration has said it won't develop a federal Covid-19 health certificate, European Parliament spokeswoman Polona Tedesko said. 

Such a certificate would be difficult to develop here since vaccination records are kept by states rather than the federal government. Political blowback, sparked by worries about privacy, is another likely concern of the administration. 

In the absence of a compatible digital U.S. system that could be recognized by the European Commission, individual EU states will decide on their own whether to recognize the vaccine cards issued in the U.S. as well as any digital records that individual states could choose to create. 

Several EU countries, though, have already decided to do away with or reduce travel restrictions for vaccinated Americans, including Greece, Spain, Croatia and France. 

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