Two European Union (E.U.) member nations, Austria and Croatia, have instituted new rules for international travelers, placing an ‘expiry date’ on visitors’ COVID-19 vaccination status.
The E.U. had broadly lifted travel restrictions on travelers coming from the U.S. back in June, although each of its 27 member countries is allowed to dictate its own particular conditions for entry (e.g., testing, vaccination or quarantine requirements).
Croatia’s and Austria’s policies—which apply to American travelers, as it’s still designated a ‘low-risk’ country—have both thus far stipulated that inbound foreign visitors must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours (PCR test) or 48 hours (antigen test) prior to arrival, certificate of full vaccination with an approved vaccine or evidence of having recovered from COVID-19 infection within the previous six months.
Croatia also allows travelers the option of testing immediately (no more than 24 hours) upon arrival, provided that they self-isolate pending receipt of negative results or quarantine for 10 full days.
Now, those relying upon their vaccination certification to gain entry to either country must have received their final dose of the vaccine no more than 270 days prior to their visit. So far, they’re the only E.U. members to set an ‘expiration date’ on the validity of vaccinations, but it’s possible that others could follow their lead. Especially given that the E.U. is reportedly considering reevaluating its decision to accept travelers from the U.S. at all.
Croatia was the first to set a maximum validity period on international travelers’ inoculation status in an announcement made last month. Austria followed suit just this week by setting the same nine-month time limit on the acceptability of visitors’ vaccination certificates.
The move follows the emergence of evidence that the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines wanes over time, especially if they’re expected to hold up against the more robust Delta variant. While booster injections aren’t part of immunization plans at this point in time, the assumption is that, if travelers were to receive a booster dose, the term of their vaccination’s ‘validity’ would be reset.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are planning to offer Americans booster shots this autumn, tentatively starting the week of September 20. Recipients, the agencies said, would be eligible eight months after finishing their original vaccine series, though travel blog Your Mileage May Vary pointed out that the timeframe for eligibility may actually end up being six months instead.