European Union leaders plan to discuss the introduction of standardized “vaccination passports” that would allow people inoculated against COVID-19 to move freely throughout Europe. The talks will take place during a video conference call on Jan. 21.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis proposed the passports in a recent letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“Persons who have been vaccinated should be free to travel,” Mistotakis wrote. “It is urgent to adopt a common understanding on how a vaccination certificate should be structured so as to be accepted in all member states.”
The proposal is gaining traction among many EU countries, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to force lockdowns, restrict travel and cripple economies. So far, the leaders of Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland and Spain have all indicated that they are receptive to the plan.
However, some governments are resistant to the idea, citing concerns over privacy, data sharing and discrimination.
For example, Germany has questioned whether it is legal to grant travel rights based on inoculation status when COVID-19 vaccines are in short supply and certain people, such as pregnant women, are advised not to get them.
Vaccine programs in EU countries have been hampered by supply issues, slow vaccine approvals and poor planning. These problems have caused the EU to fall behind vaccination initiatives in the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and other countries.
EU sources said leaders will likely discuss ways to speed up vaccinations during the Jan. 21 teleconference. They are also expected to ask the commission to draw up a proposal detailing the way the vaccination passport would work.
On Jan. 15, the worldwide COVID-19 death toll surpassed 2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 400,000 of those deaths occurred in EU countries.
So far, more than 35 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in 49 countries worldwide, according to data collected by Bloomberg.