Disability campaigners welcome EU’s vaccine certificate

The European Disability Forum (EDF) says the EU institutions’ agreement on the digital Covid certificate includes specific provisions for persons with disabilities.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

28 May 2021

The EDF says that the agreement is a “clear improvement” from the initial Commission text, that “lacked” such requirements.

It also said the improvements were “especially” due to members of the Disability Intergroup in Parliament which had pushed for the additional clauses in the final text.

EDF president Yannis Vardakastanis told this website, “The Certificates will be an essential tool for freedom of movement. We now count on Member States to deliver on this commitment and make them accessible.”

The certificate will be issued by national authorities and will be available in either digital or paper format. They will have to comply with the EU accessibility legislation that lists all legal requirements, for example, relating to the use of images.

However, the EDF says that as the final format of the certificate is still to be decided the Commission “will have to check the requirements that apply to their final product.”

Vardakastanis said, “We welcome the EU institutions’ agreement. The certificate is meant to facilitate travel between EU countries. It will provide a harmonised way to attest if someone has been vaccinated against Coronavirus, has a negative test result or has recovered from infection recently.”

“The certificate being accessible is one less hurdle for persons with disabilities, who already face many barriers in independent travel. It is also important in case Member States decide to use them for other purposes, such as for entry into cultural events.”

“The Certificates will be an essential tool for freedom of movement. We now count on Member States to deliver on this commitment and make them accessible” Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President

The agreement was reached in record time just two months after the Commission’s proposal. The certificate will be free of charge, secure and accessible to all. It will cover vaccination, test and recovery, offering different options to citizens.

The agreement specifically mentions accessibility for persons with disabilities, stating the certificate must “ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities to the human-readable information contained in the digital certificate and in the paper-based certificate in line with the accessibility requirements included in Union law legislation.”

Vardakastanis added, “We are happy to see our campaigning efforts come to fruition, especially thanks to the Disability Intergroup of the European Parliament.”

Meanwhile, in a vote on Wednesday, Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee endorsed the certificate package with 52 votes in favour and 13 votes against.

The Committee was told the certificate will facilitate free movement without discrimination and contribute to the EU’s economic recovery.

Commenting, the Committee chair and rapporteur, Spanish Socialist Juan Fernando López Aguilar, said, “The Parliament started negotiations with very ambitious objectives in mind and has managed to achieve a good compromise through painstaking negotiations.”

“The text voted today will ensure that freedom of movement will be safely restored across the EU as we continue to fight this pandemic, with due respect for the right of our citizens to non-discrimination and data protection.”

“The certificate being accessible is one less hurdle for persons with disabilities, who already face many barriers in independent travel”

Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President

The text will be voted on at the June plenary session and then has to be approved by Council. This is a formality and the certificates are expected to come into force from 1 July.

Elsewhere, European Parliament President David Sassoli told the Global Health Summit in Rome that countries should share Coronavirus vaccines.

He pointed out that the EU had decided from the outset of the pandemic to export vaccines produced in its territory and to finance the COVAX platform with € 2.2 billion, allowing the supply of 68 million doses to low- and middle-income countries.

“However, this is not all,” he said, adding, “Member States have also announced the sharing of over 11 million surplus doses with developing countries.”

The Italian member told the gathering, “I think it would be a very important step if all G20 member countries also decided to share a significant amount of vaccines with countries in difficulty, and to lift export restrictions, in particular for the doses already intended for the COVAX instrument.”

“It is a question of responsibility but also practicality, because there will be no security for anyone, until everyone is safe. These short-term decisions are fundamental, but we know that we need to think now in the medium and long term.”

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