The issue of coronavirus/india-opposes-vaccine-passports-at-g7-meet-calls-it-hugely-discriminatory-unfair-to-developing-nations-6992481.html” target=”_blank”>vaccine passports, against which India has expressed strong reservations, is back in the news again with reports saying that the Covishield vaccine is not good enough for people if they are planning to travel to the European Union as it may not qualify for a ‘green pass’ in some countries. The fact that the same Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine marketed under a different brand name is okay for the vaccine pass has just added to the confusion. But Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of Serum Institute of India, which is making Covishield in India, said that the matter has been taken up at the highest levels to ease the travel worries of people who have received his vaccine.
What Is The ‘Green Pass’?
It is the unofficial name for EU’s Digital Covid Certificate that is to be issued in all its 27 member countries from July 1 to “facilitate safe free movement of citizens in the EU during the Covid-19 pandemic. The certificate essentially details a traveller’s Covid-19 status. It is a “digital proof” that a person has either been vaccinated, tested negative within a stipulated timeframe, or recovered from a bout of Covid-19.
But the European Commission (EC) has clarified that the digital certificate “will not be a pre-condition to free movement, which is a fundamental right in the EU”. Having said that member States have been advised to “accept vaccination certificates for vaccines which received EU marketing authorisation” although the commission also says that the certificate can be extended “also to EU travellers that received another vaccine”.
What Is The Requirement For Travellers From Non EU Countries?
Recommendations put out by the EC on May 20 said that should a member state decide to accept proof of vaccination for waiver of travel restrictions “they should in principle lift restrictions on non-essential travel for third-country travellers who have received the last recommended dose of an EMA approved vaccine at least 14 days before arrival”.
Now, the four vaccines approved by the European Medical Agency (EMA), the EU drugs watchdog, are the ones produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and VaxZevria, which is essentially the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. But this is the version made by AstraZeneca in Europe whereas Covishield is made under licence in India. While Covishield sought and received approval from Indian authorities and from the World Health Organisation (WHO) it has yet to apply for emergency approval in EU. But that could be because the EU market was not a part of the Serum Institute’s production plans.
Nonetheless, the EC has said that waiver for travel can also be given to those “who have received at least 14 days before, the last recommended dose of a vaccine having completed the WHO emergency use listing process”. Now, that is a nod that the Covishield vaccine has secured. But it is up to the individual countries to decide what vaccines they will accept for issuing a visa. It is pertinent to note here that neither of the two other vaccines that are being administered in India now — Covaxin and Sputnik V — have received an emergency nod from EMA.
What Is The Situation With Covishield?
By the third week of June close to 20 EU countries had started issuing vaccine passports for restriction-free travel. As it becomes available in all EU countries from July 1, travellers will have to check the regulations for their destination country to see which vaccine is being accepted for a vaccine passport. However, it has to be kept in mind that application for the vaccine passport can also be made on the basis of a negative RT-PCR test or with proof of recovery from infection.
Travel website schengenvisainfo.com says that while EU citizens can procure their vaccine passport in the country where they have got vaccinated “third-country citizens… should apply for such a document through their destination member state”.
Reports suggest that while Iceland is recognising WHO authorised vaccines, the likes of France and Germany will only accept shots approved by EMA.