After a year of nonessential travel from the United States coming to a halt amid the pandemic, the top executive of the European Union said in an interview on Sunday that fully vaccinated American tourists can visit the bloc this summer.
“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency–approved vaccines,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, told the New York Times, referring to the public-health regulator which has approved the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson shots. She added that “all 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A.”
While von der Leyen did not provide a timeline on when tourists could fly over, her comments suggest that travel to the European Union will soon change from state-based restrictions to those based on vaccine status. Already, the EU is developing a program of “digital green certificates,” which will function as vaccine passports within the bloc. According to the Times, “technical discussions have been going on for several weeks between European Union and United States officials on how to practically and technologically make vaccine certificates from each place broadly readable so that citizens can use them to travel without restrictions.” Such a program would be a departure from domestic travel in the United States, where the Biden administration ruled out the possibility of a vaccine passport program earlier this month.
The announcement is a big step toward normalcy for Americans who can afford to travel to Europe — and a serious economic boost for local economies reliant on tourism. But it also reinforces the severe, artificial inequality of vaccine access between the nations which have secured millions of doses and those which are left to wait as wealthy countries refuse to share both supply and manufacturing technology. As of late April, just 2 percent of all vaccines administered globally had been administered in Africa, a continent which represents more than 16 percent of the world’s population.