Technical work to develop an interoperable EU-wide vaccine certificate is planned to be completed within three months.
EU leaders met via video conference to discuss the topic at the European Council meeting last week.
European Council, president, Charles Michel, confirmed there would be a “common European approach” to ensure vaccine certificates (also known as vaccine passports) are interoperable.
The certificate will not only contain vaccination data, but other information which could indicate immunity to COVID-19, such as PCR or rapid antigen test results, he added.
Michel said the council also needed to agree what the certificate could be used for and address worries about discrimination against those who have not been vaccinated.
European Commission president, Ursula Von Der Leyen, confirmed the data set for the certificate has already been defined.
“It’s a minimum data set. The sensitive health data will stay in the member states. It’s just a question of if the person is vaccinated, or has the person had a negative PCR test or antibodies because they’ve recovered from COVID,” she said.
Von Der Leyen stressed the importance of an EU-wide solution to prevent private companies from filling the vacuum, claiming that Google and Apple had already approached the World Health Organisation (WHO) with solutions. This was later denied in a statement from WHO.
Earlier this month, WHO issued an interim position paper opposing vaccine passports due to “critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of the vaccination in reducing transmission” and the limited availability of vaccines.
WHY IT MATTERS
The introduction of an EU-wide vaccine passport has been a controversial matter, with countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain advocating for the measure, while others including France and Germany have raised discrimination concerns and legal hurdles.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Meanwhile, tech giant IBM has created a blockchain solution called Digital Health Pass, to enable organisations to verify citizens’ health credentials.
Also, a coalition of health and tech groups, including Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce, has formed The Vaccination Credential Initiative, to create an internationally accepted digital health card to store COVID-19 information such as test results or vaccination data.
ON THE RECORD
Charles Michel, said: “We have to stress the European approach. If we don’t have a European approach put in place there will be a bilateral approach, here and there, which will complicate matters even more. So, alongside the Commission, we’re very committed to getting the members states to converge on this matter.
“We also take into account the fact that for many European countries, tourism is a vital industry, be it economically or socially.”
Ursula Von Der Leyen, said: “It’s important to have a European solution as otherwise others will go into this vacuum. As we know, Google and Apple are already offering solutions to the WHO and this is sensitive information, so we want to be very clear here that we offer a European solution.”