India-Supported Covishield Taking One Step At A Time To EU 'Green Pass': Switzerland And Seven EU Countries Approve The Vaccine For Travel Into Continent

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Jul 1, 2021 12:11 PM
India-Supported Covishield Taking One Step At A Time To EU 'Green Pass': Switzerland And Seven EU Countries Approve The Vaccine For Travel Into ContinentOxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine (Pic Via Twitter)
  • Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland have put Serum Institute of India's Covishield vaccine on their approved vaccine list.

India said it would not accept the European Union's digital Covid-19 certificate unless it includes the Covishield and Covaxin. But some countries in Europe have put Serum Institute of India's (SII) Covishield—the Indian version of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine—on the approved vaccine list on 1 July.

The EU digital Covid-19 certificate—dubbed the "Green Pass", which is set to take effect on 1 July—will exempt individuals who have been properly vaccinated with EU-approved vaccines from mandatory quarantine. Just a few days ago, it was revealed that travellers who have received Covishield may not be eligible for the "Green Pass", as European Medicines Agency (EMA) hasn't yet approved any Indian vaccine. As of now, EMA has approved only four vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech's Comirnaty, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca's Vaxzervria and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen. Only those who have been injected with these vaccines will be issued vaccination passports and will be permitted to travel throughout the EU during the pandemic.

It was also stated that individual member states could accept vaccines that have been approved at the national level or by the World Health Organization. According to the latest reports, seven EU member states have decided to give the nod to an Indian vaccine. Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland have put SII's Covishield vaccine on their approved vaccine list.

The news came after India said that it would only recognise EU digital certificates on a reciprocal basis, in what is likely the first diplomatic retaliation against vaccine nationalism. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is claimed to have signalled on 30 June that recognition of India-made vaccines will be reciprocated, and holders of the EU inoculation pass will be spared from required quarantine. India, which had raised the problem with the EMA and France, had requested EU member states to consider granting similar exemptions to those who had received the Covishield and Covaxin doses. The officials also requested the EU to accept vaccination certificates provided through India's CoWIN portal.

Due to the pandemic, non-essential travel to the EU from other countries, including India, is currently prohibited. Depending on the situation, EU member states will waive these restrictions. Concerns have also been voiced by the African Union Commission and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the list of Covid-19 vaccinations that qualify for the "Green Pass"—whose framework will facilitate free movement among EU member states from today (1 July). African Union and Africa CDC said on 29 June: "Under such regulations, persons who received Covishield, despite being able to demonstrate proof of vaccination, would continue to be subject to public health restrictions, including limitations of movement and testing requirements, with considerable administrative and financial implications".

The SII's Covishield vaccine has been the spine of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) contributions to African Union member states' vaccination programmes. Covishield, not approved by the EMA, is extensively used in India and several low- and middle-income countries. It is manufactured by AstraZeneca's technical partner SII. When the news came out about the EU Green Pass excluded Covishield, SII's CEO Adar Poonawalla tweeted: "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". Later, on 30 June, he said that he is confident about Covishield's approval by the EMA within a month.

According to The Economic Times, sources said that the Green Pass policy, which looked to be discriminatory and ad hoc, was being investigated by the Indian government. One of the sources said: "We are studying how the current status of EU Green Pass impacts third world countries in future. There have been informal talks on the matter with EU".

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