Travelers who have been inoculated with Sinopharm can now visit freely the Republic of Cyprus, but it is up to other EU member states to accept the Chinese vaccine if the latest draft version for a Covid certificate is adopted in Strasburg next month.
Cyprus on Friday added the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine to its official travel website, which lists all approved vaccines accepted for free entry of vaccinated people into the country.
Eligible passengers regardless of nationality, who have been vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency or either Russia's Sputnik V or China's Sinopharm vaccine, only need to file online for a Cyprus Flight Pass within 24 hours of their inbound flight to the island, foregoing any obligation to meet country category prerequisites, such as RT-PCR lab tests, self-isolation, or even quarantine.
Sinopharm’s addition by Cyprus came weeks following fierce debate within the European Union, as the bloc sought to compromise on the question of travel restrictions, with northern countries taking a conservative approach and southern members pushing for more freedom for vaccinated tourists.
After a European parliamentary vote scheduled for June 7, EU member states are expected to continue to be allowed to decide on their own whether to allow in travelers immunized with vaccines approved by the World Health Organization for emergency use, which include the Sinopharm vaccine.
Earlier this month, WHO approved emergency listing for China's Sinopharm vaccine, a step that cleared the way for another vaccine to be added to COVAX, a worldwide initiative for global access to vaccines.
WHO says Sinopharm has easy storage requirements and with an efficacy rate of 79% in clinical trials. It is also the first vaccine to have a vial monitor that changes color when the vaccine is exposed to heat.
EMA review of Sinopharm still "rolling”
EMA has also started a “rolling review” of Sinopharm after preliminary results suggested the vaccine triggered the production of antibodies that target SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and may help protect against the disease.
But experts warn that EMA approval does not necessarily mean the European Commission will place an order, even if a commercial license is granted.
If the deal for the EU Digital Cover certificate goes through next month, anyone living in the EU’s 27 countries can secure a digital health pass by the end of June, displaying their vaccination status, results of Covid-19 tests, or recovery from a coronavirus infection.
“This is an important step towards restarting EU free movement as safely as possible, while providing clarity and certainty for our citizens,” said EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides.
The EU pass also known as Digital Green Certificate will have both a physical and a digital version, and it would work through a QR code as well.
But EU officials have warned that the Covid certificate, expected to be valid for one year, would neither be a precondition for free movement nor a substitute for a travel document.