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4 Feb 2022

Do you need a Covid booster jab to travel in 2022? How do you prove your vaccinations in the NHS app?

Proof of vaccination status for 12 - 15 year olds has now been added to the app in England

Booster jabs have become increasingly vital for travellers planning to holiday in Europe this year.

Recommendations around vaccinations in the European Union (EU) means a growing number of EU member states are tightening their rules for entry. This could have an impact on your next holiday to an EU country if your destination brings in those rules by the time you're visiting.

What's the recommendation?

The European Commission (EC) recommends that EU states place an expiry date of nine months (270 days) on the first complete vaccination cycle.

How does it affect my holiday?

Countries in the European Union (EU) can choose to implement this for people travelling from the UK and other non-EU countries (also known as 'third countries'). This could mean some people will not be able to take their holiday as planned unless they get the top-up vaccination.

Which countries have set vaccine expiry dates so far?

vaccine passport

Some countries have already introduced the rule, including Spainand Denmark. After 270 days have passed since your first complete round of vaccinations, you'll need a booster to enter.

Others may choose to adopt this recommendation, but EU members aren't obligated to adopt the guidance. Go to gov.uk to find out entry requirements for individual countries. If jab expiry dates aren't mentioned, locate your destination's government website or official tourist board web page to check.

Portugal, for example, hasn't yet implemented this rule, and you can enter with proof of a negative test.

Meanwhile in Italy, jabs currently expire after six months.

Travellers who aren't inoculated with appropriate jabs in the relevant timeframes will have to follow the entry rules for those who are unvaccinated. In some countries this will mean you cannot get into the country, or you won't be able to enter certain establishments, like restaurants, when you get there. In other states, you will be forced to pay for tests to enter, and/or tests everytime you want to go to a bar, restaurant or museum - but this varies by destination.

This could add hundreds of pounds to the cost of your holiday, or restrict your holiday destination options.

Booster third jabs for restaurants, bars and events

Your vaccine passport isn't just used to enter countries. Italy, France, Croatia and Switzerland (to name a few) have rules on showing your vaccination status to enter bars, restaurants and indoor events. This is true of many countries in Europe (although some will also accept a recent negative test), and elsewhere, including several US states such as New York and California.

In New York everyone aged five and over requires a vaccination certificate - a negative test will not suffice. This is problematic because jabs have only been offered to those aged 12 and over in the UK.

If a vaccine passport is required and yours has expired, you can provide a negative Covid-19 test instead in the likes of Portugal - but this isn't the case in many other countries such as France.

In France, the health pass recently became a vaccination pass for those aged 16 and over. Negative tests will not be accepted as an alternative to a jab to enter almost all leisure establishments - unless you are 12-15 years old. The new rules on this pass also mean that anyone 18 and over who had their second dose more than seven months ago will need to be boosted, although this expiry date will be cut to four months from 15 February.

InGreece, vaccination expiry is set to seven months for domestic use - so you won't be able to visit a restaurant inside without the booster past this window.

Before booking a holiday, decipher vaccine passport requirements. Extra tests could be costly if you need to repeat them throughout your trip. You could also lose out on your holiday if you don't meet vaccine passport requirements - you are responsible for checking, not your holiday company or airline.

Booster third jabs for February half term and summer holidays 2022

Seaside holiday with kids

If you have booked a holiday already, it's worth checking the validity of your vaccine against your travel dates and the rules in your destination, to determine whether your immunity 'expires' before or during your planned trip.

If it does, you may need to get the booster jab. If you choose not to get the top-up dose, depending on the country, you might need to either show negative tests everytime you want to go out which could add up. Some countries won't permit tests as an alternative, meaning you're not able to travel or eat out which could severely impact your holiday.

If your trip is at risk and you feel you may not be able to travel, check your travel insurance policy to find out whether you're covered, although this new development is unlikely to have been accounted for in existing policies. You should also speak to your holiday company to ask if it's possible to push your trip back - although this may not be permitted.

How do children prove their vaccination status?

Everyone aged 16 and over in England who has been vaccinated can prove their status through the NHS app. From 3 February, digital Covid passes will also be added for 12 - 15 year olds. In the meantime, you can request a letter to prove a teen's vaccination status.

In Wales 12-15 year olds will be able to get a paper copy of their vaccine certification - see the Welsh government website for more information.

In Scotland 12-17 year olds can request a copy of their vaccination status by phoning the Covid Status Helpline on 0808 196 8565, or requesting online, but they cannot use the app. See NHS Inform website for more details.

In Northern Ireland, parents and guardians can apply for vaccination certificates for young people up to the age of 17 on their behalf through the NI Gov website.

My Covid third jab booster isn't showing in the NHS app - what should I do?

NHS app on phone

Your booster jab should now be showing in the app. You can read more information about using the app, along with some troubleshooting tips in our guide to using the NHS App as a covid passport.

Proof of recovery certificates

Some countries such as Turkey accept proof of recent Covid infection as an alternative to a test or vaccination certificate to enter.

To prove your recovered status, first check the country's specific entry requirements. Not all will accept proof of recent recovery and those that do will specify how recent that infection needs to have been and how you must prove it. In Turkey, you will need to have recovered within the last six months and you can use the NHS App to demonstrate it.

Recent infections will show in England's NHS App. Northern Ireland says you may be eligible to apply for a recovery certificate which will be valid for travel up to 180 days after a positive test.

However, being able to prove it doesn't necessarily mean that the country you are travelling to will accept this as proof of entry. Check what they will accept before setting off.