Portugal’s secretary of state for European affairs has acknowledged that vaccines not certified by the European Medicines Authority but are already circulating in Europe might be included in the EU digital vaccination certificate due to be presented soon by the Commission.
“This is a problem that we will have to solve soon”, Ana Paula Zacarias said on Tuesday (2 March), adding that it is “possible and plausible” that vaccines that are not approved appear on the certificates.
She added that the European Commission, responsible for monitoring the implementation of the new vaccines in member states, will continue to work closely with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to ensure that the vaccines in question are not “illegal”.
EU leaders recently gave the EU executive the mandate to start working on the complex technical part of a digital EU vaccination certificate and come up with a proposal within three months.
However, the Commission seems to want to speed up the procedures and said earlier this week that a legislative proposal will be presented in March.
Without naming them specifically, Zacarias alluded to EU member countries that have purchased or announced their intention to purchase vaccines manufactured by Russia and China to overcome delays in delivering vaccines authorised by the EU.
After Hungary, which has already started administering Russian Sputnik V and Chinese Sinopharm vaccines, Slovakia received the first 200,000 doses of Sputnik on Monday.
Moreover, Austria, which criticised the EMA for the delay in the vaccine authorisation process, said that it was in contact with Israel and Russia to jointly develop second-generation vaccines to tackle new coronavirus variants so as “not to depend on the European Union in the future”.
Zacarias also said the issue should be discussed at the World Health Organisation (WHO) level, because it is important that certificates “can be used worldwide”, adding that the digital solution, which the European Commission is now working on, should involve using a QR Code.
Zacarias explained that the certificates will aim to facilitate travel, so it is necessary to take into account several things, namely that “the vaccine is not mandatory, it is voluntary”.
“The idea of having a legal instrument where it says what has to be in this certificate is important because in the certificate it will say ‘person x had the first dose. Which vaccine? On what date? It might also say that the person has had the disease and for how long he or she is immune or that the person has had a test,” she added.
However, an EU vaccination certificate may face practical difficulties unless EU member states coordinate.
For instance, Budapest recently announced that the national Hungarian vaccination certificate will not state which type of jab was administered.
[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com]