Are you planning to travel to Europe this summer? In that case, it’s essential to know that - whilst you may be considered fully vaccinated in the UK - your vaccination may have an expiry date according to EU Covid travel rules.
In February 2022, the EU put new rules in place that impose a vaccination expiry period of 270 days for travel to EU member states.
While some countries (such as Italy and Germany) have now removed all Covid entry requirements (i.e there are no entry requirements regardless of your vaccination status), the vaccination requirements for entry to the country remain in place for some popular EU destinations such as Spain (including the Canary and Balearic Islands).
How do I know if my vaccination is still valid / has expired?
If you have received the booster jab, there is currently no expiry date as the EU expects protection from booster jabs to last longer than the protection resulting from the primary vaccination series.
If you haven’t had the booster jab, the expiry of your vaccinations is based on the length of time from the completion of your ‘primary vaccination series’:
- For a two-dose vaccine (which are commonplace in the UK, e.g. AZ, Pfiezer, etc), it means 270 days after the second jab.
- For a single dose vaccine (such as Johnson&Johnson) this means 270 days after your first and only jab.
- (The only exception to this is if you had a documented case of Covid prior to your vaccination, in which case the time count starts from the first and only shot you had after having recovered from the virus.)
To put it in real terms, this means that (at the date of publishing) if you completed your primary vaccination series on or before 1 October 2021 and have not received the booster vaccination, you are no longer considered ‘fully vaccinated’ for travel by EU standards.
I’ve realised I’m classed as unvaccinated for my travels! What does this mean for me?
One solution is to get your booster jab in advance of travel.
If that’s not for you (or if you are travelling very soon), you will still be able to travel to most EU countries (except the Netherlands and Slovakia) by either taking a fit-to-fly Covid test before you travel, or by providing a Proof of Recovery certificate (if you have had Covid within 180 days prior to travel to the EU).
The timing requirements of your fit-to-fly test may vary between countries, so make sure you know what is required:
How do I prove that my vaccination is still ‘in date’, or that I’ve had the booster jab?
The UK has joined the EU Digital COVID Certificate system therefore, EU countries will accept the NHS COVID Pass as proof of your vaccination record. Bear in mind that it can take up to a week for your vaccination record to become visible in the NHS COVID Pass app.
If you require or would prefer a non-digital (hardcopy) proof of your vaccination record, you can order an NHS COVID Pass letter via the NHS 119 service or via NHS.UK. Your letter will show a 2D barcode for each vaccination you’ve received, including your booster vaccination.
How long will these rules be in place?
Today (28 June 2022), the Council of the EU issued a press release extending the EU digital COVID certificate regulation for a further year, until 30 June 2023. This means that whilst individual EU member countries may opt to relax or remove restrictions, if they decide to retain entry regulations then these must be in line with EU regulations (i.e. not impose any rules that are more strict than those laid out by the Council of the EU).
What are the rules for children?
EU rules state that children aged 11 and under are exempt from travel-related entry requirements.
In some countries, such as France, Spain and Malta, a booster jab is not required for travellers aged 12-17 and the 270-day vaccination expiry rule does not apply, meaning they continue to qualify as fully vaccinated more than 270 days after their last primary dose and do not need to show proof of having received a booster to travel.
Remember that there may be additional entry or domestic (internal) requirements or exemptions for children. Always check before you travel.
Caution: Domestic rules may be different
While the vaccine acceptance rules are standardised for EU travel, member states are permitted to impose their own internal vaccination requirements in a similar way to the freedom to impose mask-wearing rules as each individual country deems suitable.
For example, rules may exist that require you to show proof of vaccination in public spaces or for entry to bars/ restaurants/ theatres etc. Additionally, even where providing proof of vaccination is not mandated by the government, it is often at the discretion of individual establishments to ask customers to present a valid vaccination certificate or to wear a face mask.
CTN Tip: the EU Digital Certificate time limit rules only apply for inter-state travelling within the EU, but individual countries might have different time limits on vaccinations. Using France as an example, in order to access hospitals/ healthcare establishments and retirement homes, anyone aged over 18 years and 1 month must have received a booster dose within 4 months of the primary vaccination course to be considered fully vaccinated.
Domestic rules don’t always mirror the rules for entry to the country, so make sure you check the specific rules for your country before you travel.
Written by Abbie Pullman
Published on 28/06/2022
Abbie is Operations Director at Covid Testing Network, overseeing the operational running of the business.
The information within this article is accurate at the time of publishing.
Information about testing requirements, entry requirements to the UK and travelling abroad during Covid-19 is CTN’s understanding of the requirements from multiple sources including the UK Government website at the time of publishing - always check full requirements including mandatory documentation and quarantine rules before you travel! By using our site, you confirm that you accept our user terms and conditions and you agree to comply with them. We amend these terms from time to time. Every time you wish to use our site, please check these terms to ensure you understand the terms that apply at that time.