In an interview published on Sunday, Ursula von der Leyen said she believed that “free movement” from the US to EU countries would be feasible in the coming months.
“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” Ms von der Leyen told the paper. “This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union.”
With all three vaccines so far being used in the US, including the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson jabs, having been approved by the EU’s drugs regulator, Ms von der Leyen said: “All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved”.
A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed Ms von der Leyen’s comments, but did not offer any further statement.
If Americans are able to travel to EU countries, it would represent a marked shift in policies that have been in force since the pandemic began.
Since March 2020, the EU had issued broad restrictions on foreign travel to Europe, with Americans being blocked from entry even during a partial reopening last summer due to the high number of cases across the US.
Now, with US President Joe Biden’s accelerated vaccination programme well under way, Ms von der Leyen has offered hope to millions of Americans keen to go abroad before the year is over.
So far, more than 228.6 million vaccine doses have been administered in the US, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
More than 139.9 million people have received a first vaccine dose, representing 42.2 per cent of the population, while more than 94.7 million have been fully vaccinated, representing 28.5 per cent of America.
Polling conducted late last month, however, suggested that the Biden administration could face hurdles in seeing the majority of Americans vaccinated, with one in four Americans saying they would refuse the vaccine if offered, according to an NPR/Marist survey.
Another 5 per cent said they were still “undecided” about getting the jab, with the numbers of those resistant to getting the vaccine highest among Republican men and residents of rural areas.
Still, the EU’s policy shift will mean that millions of Americans will likely be able to travel to Europe this summer.
Mr Biden is expected to make his way to the continent in June, with Ms von der Leyen expected to welcome him along with European Council President Charles Michel on a trip to Brussels for the EU-US summit.
In a tweet on Friday, Ms von der Leyen said she will be “happy to greet” the US leader in June, adding: “We have much to do together, from climate change to health, from trade and multilateralism to geopolitical challenges.”
The Independent has contacted the Biden administration for comment.
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