As part of an effort to reopen their borders and encourage travelers from outside of Europe, the 27 member states of the European Union (E.U.) began issuing an “E.U. Digital COVID Certificate” (EUDCC) on July 1, 2021 to people who have receive COVID vaccinations to allow freedom of movement within the region. The travel scheme, also known as an “immunity pass” or a “health pass” or a “green pass,” was first announced by the E.U. on Apr. 14, 2021 and was approved by the European Parliament on June 9 to help stimulate the economies of E.U. countries following a series of lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.1 2 3 4 5 6 7
The certificate, available in digital or paper form, contains a “QR code” (a barcode) that can be scanned upon entry to a country. The QR code contains the name of the holder of the certificate and birth date; the name of the issuing country and a unique QR code identifier; the name of the vaccine received, the number of doses and the date of vaccination; the type of coronavirus test taken, the date and time of the test, the name of the testing center and result of the test; and for those who have recovered from COVID, the name of the positive test result, issuer of the certificate, date of issuance and validity date.5
Those who fail to present the certificate are barred from traveling within the E.U. The prohibition effectively targets people who have opted against being tested or receiving any of the EUDCC-approved COVID biologics, which include those developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford University, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, Moderna/NIAID and Pfizer/BioNTech.6
Nine-Month Validity for E.U. Digital COVID Certificate Proposed by European Commission
On Nov. 11, in response to a growing number of SARS-CoV-2 infections throughout Europe and data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) showing that protection from the COVID biologics wanes significantly within six months after vaccination, the European Commission (the executive governing branch of the E.U.) proposed amending the rules for the EUDCC, limiting the validity of the certificate.8 9
Under the new rules, which still have to be adopted by the 27 E.U. countries, the EUDCC would expire nine months after the final dose of the first or “primary” series of shots—one dose for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen biologic and two doses each for the AstraZeneca/Oxford University, Moderna/NIAID and Pfizer/BioNTech biologics. This means that EUDCC holders may need to get a another series of vaccinations in order to renew their certificate.8 9
According to a CNBC news report:
The idea now is that the document has a life span of nine months after the first set of vaccines are administered—so after the second dose for Pfizer-BioNTech shot, for example, or after one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The idea is that as immunity wanes, then a vaccine passport will expire.8
E.U. Booster Shots Recommended Due to COVID Vaccine “Waning Immunity”
On Nov. 24, the ECDC recommended vaccine booster shots for all adults. “Available evidence emerging from Israel and the U.K. shows a significant increase in protection against infection and severe disease following a booster dose in all age groups in the short term,” the agency stated. The director of the ECDC, Andrea Ammon, MD, said she believed the booster shots would increase protection against SARS-CoV-2 infections caused by waning immunity and may “potentially reduce the transmission in the population and prevent additional hospitalizations and deaths.”8 10
It is unclear how often the EUDCC would need to be renewed. If renewal of the certificate is envisioned to be a permanent process, then the EUDCC would operate more like a passport and would require annual COVID vaccinations or testing in order to travel within Europe.
Pharma Favors Idea of Annual COVID Shots Just Like Annual Flu Shots
In the United States, where COVID vaccine mandates have been passed by both the federal government and numerous state governments coercing people to get vaccinated and present proof of vaccination or risk losing their jobs or be subjected to discrimination in terms of access to certain events, facilities and services, the question of whether annual COVID shots will be required remains unanswered.
In an interview in August, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, MD, said:
It does look like after this third dose, you get a really robust response. This virus has been humbling, so I don’t want to say never, but we are not necessarily anticipating that you will need this annually.11
Dr. Walensky remarks are far from a definitive answer. Perhaps a clearer vision of what the U.S. and other countries might expect was offered by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla in August when he said, “[T]he most likely scenario is we will be needing annual re-vaccination, as we do with the flu vaccine.” In September, Bourla said:
The most likely scenario for me is that, because the virus is spread all over the world, that it will continue seeing new variants that are coming out. Also we will have vaccines that they will last at least a year, and I think the most likely scenario is annual vaccination, but we don’t know really, we need to wait and see the data.11 12
In an interview with Forbes magazine in March, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel reportedly said that it is likely people would need to get a COVID vaccine booster every year and that it would simply be like another “medical ritual.” According to Bancel, “You might end up with a thing like the flu where every year, every two years, you need a boost.”13 14
J&J CEO Says SARS-CoV-2 “Mutates” Requiring Need for Annual Vaccinations
In February, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorskey told CNBC that people may need to get vaccinated for COVID every year, just like with seasonal flu shots. “Unfortunately, as [the virus] spreads it can also mutate. Every time it mutates, it’s almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine,” Gorsky said.15
Note that Bourla, Bancel and Gorsky all have a huge financial interest in pushing for annual COVID vaccinations. Their companies have made tens of billions of dollars on sales of their COVID biologics this year alone.
As of Nov. 1, Pfizer had posted revenue of $24.3 billion from its experimental messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID biologic BNT162b2 (also known as “Comirnaty”). The company projects revenue of $36 billion from BNT162b2 for 2021. Moderna estimates revenue from sales of its experimental mRNA-1273 (or “Spikevax”) biologic at $15-20 billion this year, while J&J estimates it will earn about $2.5 billion from sales of its experimental Ad26.COV2.S vaccine.16 17 18
This equals total revenue of between $53.5 billion and 58.5 billion from the sales of three pharmaceutical products in just one year. Imagine a repeat performance every year.
Not a bad business plan for an industry with no financial liability for COVID vaccine injuries, deaths or failures.19
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1 Buckley J. EU Digital Covid Certificate: Everything you need to know. CNN June 9, 2021.
2 Cokelaere H, Eccles M. EU COVID travel certificates go into effect. Politico July 1, 2021.
3 DW Akademie. European Parliament approves digital COVID certificate. June 9, 2021.
4 ETIAS. EU Digital COVID Certificate to revive travel in Europe.
5 Gove E. European Union Begins Issuing Digital COVID Certificates. Porthole Cruise and Travel June 2, 2021.
6 Kennedy R. Everything you need to know about the EU’s COVID travel pass. Euronews July 6, 2021.
7 Lardieri A. European Countries Begin Using Digital Coronavirus Travel Certificate. U.S. News & World Report June 1, 2021.
8 Amaro S. The EU is planning a 9-month expiration date on its Covid vaccine passports. CNBC Nov. 25, 2021.
9 Euronews. EU’s COVID travel pass will expire nine months after last vaccine dose, says Brussels. Euronews Nov. 25, 2021.
10 Guarascio F. COVID cases break records in Europe, prompting booster shot expansion. Reuters Nov. 24, 2021.
11 Aarons J. In-Depth: Will COVID-19 vaccine booster shots become a yearly necessity? ABC 10 News San Diego Nov. 11, 2021.
12 Clifford C. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla predicts normal life will return within a year and adds we may need annual Covid shots. CNBC Sept. 26, 2021.
13 Mack Z. Moderna CEO Says This Is How Often You’ll Need A COVID Vaccine. BestLife Mar. 24, 2021.
14 Rosenbaum L. What’s Next For Moderna Post-Covid-19: CEO Stéphane Bancel Details mRNA Pipeline. Forbes Mar. 24, 2021.
15 Siemaszko C. Get ready for Covid-19 vaccine booster shots at your next physical, experts warn. NBC News Feb. 10, 2021.
16 Isidore C. Pfizer revenue and profits soar on its Covid vaccine business. CNN Nov. 2, 2021.
17 Johnston M. Moderna Q3 2021 Earnings Report Recap. Investopedia Nov. 4, 2021.
18 Pagliarulo N. J&J foresees end to not-for-profit sales of coronavirus vaccine. BioPharma Dive Oct. 19, 2021.
19 Sigalos M. You can’t sue Pfizer or Moderna if you have severe Covid vaccine side effects. The government likely won’t compensate you for damages either. CNBC Dec. 17, 2020.