Travellers who have received the Indian version of Oxford-AstraZeneca's vaccine, Covishield, may not be eligible for the European Union's "Green Pass", which will be available from 1 July. While this news has raised concern among millions of vaccinated individuals, Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of Serum Institute of India (SII) which has been manufacturing Covishield, said that he hopes to resolve the issue soon.
Many EU member states have begun to issue a vaccine passport, which will allow Europeans to freely migrate for employment or tourism. The immunity passport will serve as proof that a person has been vaccinated against the Covid-19 or that they have recently tested negative for the virus, or that they have built up natural immunity from the previous infection. EU earlier stated that member states should issue certificates regardless of the type of Covid-19 vaccine used. But the specifications of the "Green Pass" indicate that this obligation will only apply to those vaccines which have received EU-wide marketing authorisation.
So far, the regulatory body, European Medicines Agency (EMA), has approved four vaccines for use in EU member states—these are Comirnaty which is the EU brand name for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna, Vaxzervria, which is the brand name for Oxford-AstraZeneca jab and Janssen which is Johnson and Johnson's single-dose vaccine. But EMA has not approved Covishield—which has been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use—for the European market, while only Vaxzervria will be recognised for the "Green Pass". Apart from India, where millions of people have received the SII's Covishield, several low- and middle-income countries have inoculated their population with this vaccine after receiving the doses under WHO's COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) initiative.
However, in the case of people who have obtained a Covid-19 vaccine that is not approved by the EMA, member states have the option of accepting other immunisation certificates. For example, Iceland will allow individuals who got the vaccine approved by the EMA or the WHO. Since Covishield has WHO's approval, people—who got the Indian vaccine—will not be facing any limitations while entering Iceland. But that is not the case in France, which stated that the travel would be easier for those who have been vaccinated with one of the EMA-approved vaccines. Passengers travelling from India to France are subject to two layers of restrictions. At the time of boarding, all passengers must present a negative RT-PCR report, and they will be tested again once they arrive. As per the official details, vaccine recipients will be required to pledge to self-isolate for at least seven days.
The exclusion of Covishield from the EU "Green Pass" has led Poonawalla to post an "assurance" statement on Twitter. He said: "I assure everyone, I have taken this up at the highest levels and hope to resolve this matter soon, both with regulators and at a diplomatic level with countries".
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