If you’ve received Sinovac, Sinopharm, or another vaccine approved under the WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL), you may have heard the good news that from 1 March 2022, you’ll be able to travel to the EU for non-essential reasons like tourism.
That’s thanks to a recent decision by the EU Council to expand the list of recognised vaccines to include those on the WHO EUL.
Member states should lift the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU for persons vaccinated with an EU- or WHO-approved vaccine, provided they have received the last dose of the primary vaccination series at least 14 days and no more than 270 days before arrival or they have received a booster dose.
Although these recommendations are not legally binding, it’s rare to see a member state break ranks and go its own way.
While that’s certainly good news for anyone with a WHO-but-not-EUL-approved vaccine, it may not mean the removal of testing and self-isolation requirements, as we’ll see below.
WHO EUL vaccines will be recognised across EU
From 1 March 2022, the EU Council recommends that member states allow non-essential travel for persons:
- vaccinated with an EU or WHO approved vaccination, or
- who have recovered from COVID-19, or
- are travelling from a “safe list” (which doesn’t include Singapore, sadly).
|Johnson & Jonson |
|Oxford/ AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria)||✔||✔|
|Bharat Biotech |
|Serum Institute of India (COVISHIELD)||✖||✔|
|Serum Institute of India|
While some EU countries like Greece and Spain had already moved to unilaterally recognise Sinovac/Sinopharm on the same terms as other EMA vaccines, others imposed additional restrictions.
In France, for example, those vaccinated with Sinovac or Sinopharm required an additional dose of an mRNA vaccine to be considered full vaccinated. In Germany, those vaccinated with Sinovac or Sinopharm would be required to present a negative pre-departure test on arrival (since they were technically considered unvaccinated).
All in all, Sinovac/Sinopharm-inoculated travellers from Singapore could expect additional restrictions when traveling to VTL partners France, Germany and Italy.
|Vaccines recognised by European VTL partners|
|Pfizer, Moderna||Sinovac, Sinopharm|
|France||✔||Additional mRNA shot required|
|Germany||✔||Additional PDT required|
(yes, I’m aware of Brexit)
That changes from 1 March 2022, but it might not be the complete freedom that you’re hoping for.
Testing and isolation may still apply!
Here’s the important caveat included by the EU Council:
For persons vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, member states could also require a negative PCR test taken at the earliest 72 hours before departure and could apply additional measures such as quarantine or isolation.
This means that from 1 March 2022, no EU member state should bar you from non-essential travel on the basis that you have Sinovac/Sinopharm, but they can still require that you take a pre-departure test, and self-isolate on arrival.
Furthermore, even if Sinovac or Sinopharm are accepted for entry into the country, travellers may not be able to obtain a vaccine passport for accessing restaurants and attractions- such is the case in Austria.
It remains to be seen how each member state will implement these recommendations, but if I were Sinovac/Sinopharm jabbed, I wouldn’t quite expect the same privileges as someone with an EMA-approved vaccine just yet.
270 days limit for vaccinations
The EU Council has also stated that no more than 270 days must have passed since completing the primary vaccination series. If the primary vaccination series was completed more than 270 days ago, then travellers:
- must have received a booster of an EMA or WHO approved vaccine, or
- recovered from COVID-19 within 180 days prior to travel
In other words, once you’ve had your booster, no time limit applies to you (for now at least!).
Do note, however, that some EU member states have set shorter limits on vaccine validity. Belgium, for example, sets a period of 150 days.
What about children?
The EU Council has stated that children aged 6-17 who fulfil the conditions set out for adults (i.e. vaccination, or recovery) should be allowed to travel. However, if they are unvaccinated, member states may request a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure, additional testing after arrival, as well as quarantine or isolation.
No testing or additional requirements should be applied to children aged 5 and below.
From 1 March 2022, those vaccinated with WHO-approved vaccinations will be able to travel to Europe for non-essential reasons. However, they may still face additional testing and isolation requirements, depending how each member country implements these recommendations.
This may not be the news that the Sinovac/Sinopharm crowd were hoping for, but if nothing else it’s a first step.
To check the travel requirements for a given country, I’d recommend using the Timatic tool from IATA. If you prefer something with a more user-friendly (but less detailed) interface, you can also try the Sherpa tool.