Greece pushes EU for a third shot in COVID pass

Addressing the Greeks amid a sharp increase of COVID-19 cases, the Greek PM said he will send a letter to Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen to suggest that the EU digital COVID certificate should be valid only if it includes a third dose six months after the last shot. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

A third shot within six months since the last dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should be introduced in the EU COVID certificate to be valid, according to Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a televised speech. Meanwhile, in Italy, the government considers making COVID certificates valid for nine months after the last jab. EURACTIV reports from Athens and Rome.

Addressing the Greeks amid a sharp increase of COVID-19 cases, the Greek PM said he would write to Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen suggesting the EU digital COVID certificate should be valid only if it includes a third dose six months after the last shot.

“In this way, we will avoid any crack in the wall of immunity that has already been built on our continent,” Mitsotakis said.

Mitsotakis was the first EU leader to propose issuing a COVID certificate across the bloc in 2020.

An EU spokesperson said on Thursday that the executive is planning to amend the EU COVID certificate regulation before it expires after 30 June 2022.

There is an ongoing debate between the Commission and scientists over introducing a booster shot in the EU COVID certificate. Still, it is unclear how long the certificate would be valid after the last dose.

A source close to the matter told EURACTIV earlier this week that the Commission is debating the certificate’s expiration, twelve months after the last dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is given.

No Christmas festivities for Greece’s unvaccinated

Meanwhile, Mitsotakis announced new strict measures against unvaccinated and ruled out any scenario of another full-pledged lockdown.

Notably, he said all unvaccinated adults in Greece would not be allowed to enter closed areas like cinemas, theatres, museums, gyms from Monday even if they show a negative COVID test.

Moreover, from 13 December onwards, the necessary condition for entry in any closed space for vaccinated persons over 60 will be a booster dose seven months from the completion of the first two doses.

Almost 575,000 Greeks over 60 remain unvaccinated, and “we know that they are being hit hardest by the virus,” Mitsotakis said.

Meanwhile, in Rome, the Italian government is set to make the COVID pass valid for nine months following a complete vaccination cycle.

However, some experts suggest lowering the validity period to six months, claiming the vaccine loses its efficacy by then.

According to Italy’s Higher Health Institute, vaccine efficacy decreases after six months, meaning a third dose is needed to reinforce antibodies to protect against the virus.

The government is also likely to make the third dose compulsory for medical and nursing home staff.

From 1 December, the third dose will be available for the 40-60 age group, as the government wants to boost vaccination with the third jab to contain the fourth wave.

The COVID-19 situation in Italy is worrying regional and national authorities. On Thursday, the country recorded 10,638 new cases and 69 related deaths in a day.

In Italy, it is currently compulsory to show the COVID pass to enter hospitality sector facilities and to work for public entities.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza is considering changing COVID pass rules regarding antigen tests. Walter Ricciardi, Speranza’s advisor, argues that rapid antigen tests are not sufficiently reliable and that they should be removed from the criteria used to issue COVID passes.

Alternatively, they are also thinking of finding a compromise, reducing the validity of the rapid test to 24 hours instead of the current 48 hours.  

(Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com, Eleonora Vasques | EURACTIV.it, Matthaios Tsimitakis – EURACTIV.gr)

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