COVID Vaccine Certificates Could be Issued to Inoculated Across Europe

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, European Union (EU) countries may issue "vaccination certificates to demonstrate a person's vaccination status," a European Commission spokesperson for public health, food safety and transport, Stefan de Keersmaecker, told Newsweek.

"We are looking at all possible solutions for staying safe while gradually returning back to normal, including the use of vaccination certificates to demonstrate a person's vaccination status.

"We are currently in the phase of developing a vaccine, the first step towards a lasting exit out of the current pandemic. When an effective and safe vaccine has been developed, it should quickly be deployed, and its safety and effectiveness will continue to be monitored in the process known as 'pharmacovigilance'. We are looking at vaccination certificates in the context of this pharmacovigilance," the spokesperson told Newsweek.

Pharmacovigilance is "the science and activities relating to the detection, assessment, understanding and prevention of adverse effects or any other medicine-related problem," according to the European Medicines Agency.

De Keersmaecker said: "In order to make sure that the member states are well prepared for this phase, we have adopted in October a recommendation on the preparation of vaccine strategies and the deployment of vaccines. This is a crucial priority which we closely follow up in close coordination with the member states and with the help of the ECDC [European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control].

"A common approach to pharmacovigilance and trusted, reliable and verifiable vaccination certificates across the EU, could reinforce the success of vaccination programs in member states and the trust of citizens in the vaccination effort.

"The Commission stands ready to take any further initiative that supports the member states to keep the spread of the virus under control," de Keersmaecker told Newsweek.

While EU countries may introduce vaccine certificates, the U.K. has no plans to do so, a government spokesperson for the country's Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) told Newsweek.

"The NHS [National Health Service] has started vaccinating patients against coronavirus as part of the biggest immunization program in British history. We have no plans to introduce immunity passports following this vaccination program," the spokesperson said.

The DHSC spokesperson told Newsweek the government's position remains the same on vaccine certificates or passports.

Immunity passports indicate the level immunity a person has to COVID-19 through the detection of antibodies.

As early as April, the World Health Organization (WHO) published guidance regarding immunity passports, noting: "Some governments have suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could serve as the basis for an 'immunity passport' or 'risk-free certificate' that would enable individuals to travel or to return to work assuming that they are protected against re-infection.

"There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection," WHO warned.

While the EU considers the use of vaccination certificates, Israel announced it will issue a "green passport" to residents who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the first country in the world to issue COVID-19 vaccine passports.

The passport will lift some restrictions, including mandatory quarantine following exposure to an infected person, and offer access to cultural events and restaurants, according to Israel's Ministry of Health.

Total confirmed cases in Europe have surpassed 22.1 million, with 487, 632 reported deaths, according to the latest report Monday by WHO.

Weekly case totals in Europe have been rising on a sharper incline since early September, after remaining flat for months from March. The weekly case count peaked in the week commencing November 2 and flattened out through December, according to data from WHO.

Weekly death totals have been increasing since late October, peaking in the week commencing November 23, after flattening out for months since early June, according to WHO.

COVID-19 vaccination card Wales hospital December 2020
A COVID-19 vaccination record card given to inoculated patients at the Cardiff and Vale Therapy Centre in Cardiff, Wales of the U.K., pictured on December 8. Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 72.9 million people, including over 16.5 million in the U.S., since it was first reported in Wuhan, China.

More than 1.6 million people have died worldwide and over 41.3 million have recovered as of Tuesday, according to John Hopkins University.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the countries with the highest COVID-19 death tolls.

coronavirus death toll us december 13
Statista

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows countries with the most COVID-19 cases.

COVID-19 cases across the globe
STATISTA