EU official warns of risks of disjointed COVID-19 vaccine records

European Union countries introducing their own COVID vaccination certificates would be left with a dangerous myriad of disjointed solutions if the 27-nation bloc fails to build a joint system, a senior official said on Wednesday.

The EU is pushing to launch a shared digital health pass to allow tourists to travel freely this summer. But discussions are not yet settled on costs, data and privacy issues, as well as technical and medical aspects of the new system, among others.

“If we can deliver politically, the technical solution will be ready in time. If we don’t, we risk fragmentation across Europe, with a multitude of possibly incompatible national solutions,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.

“We would risk having a variety of documents that cannot be read and verified in other member states. And we risk the spread of forged documents, and with it, the spread of both the virus and the mistrust of citizens,” he told the European Parliament.

Tourism-reliant southern EU countries like Spain and Italy are keen to launch the new tool as soon as possible to help their economies mauled by the pandemic. But they face a more reluctant north, as well as lengthy EU decision procedures.

With no central gateway to ensure interoperability in place for now, countries including Estonia, Lithuania, Greece, Spain, Germany and France, are introducing their own solutions to record vaccinations.

Disputes between EU countries over supplies of medical equipment, drugs and vaccines have already complicated the bloc’s joint response earlier in the pandemic.

As the bloc is now facing a third wave of infections, sceptics say discussions about restarting free travel are premature given low vaccination levels on the continent.

Another issue still to be resolved is whether antibody tests provide adequate proof that a person who has recovered from COVID-19 is immune. EU countries including Belgium are also worried about discriminating against those who cannot or would not get the jab.

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