The government may nudge the Serum Institute of India (SII) to apply for clearance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for inclusion in the ‘Green Pass’ vaccine passport programme for the entry of Covishield-vaccinated Indians to Europe, and is also taking up the matter at the diplomatic level both with the European Union and individual European countries .
The EMA has so far approved only four vaccines, including the Vaczevria version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, for use in the EU and hence for the ‘Green Pass’ programme which is to kick in from July 1, allowing people vaccinated with those four vaccines entry into Europe. SII is yet to apply to EMA for similar authorization to Covishield as the company did not make any supplies to EU so far. A senior government official told News18 that the SII may now be nudged to do so and “follow the due process” for EMA authorization, the same way as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the Indian Covishield vaccine.
Simultaneously, the Indian government, through the diplomatic channels, is also speaking to the European Union and various European countries on the issue as EMA has given European countries some liberty to allow entry to people jabbed with other vaccines too. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs may make a case here that since Covishield is already approved by WHO and its virtual twin, Vaczevria, is approved by EMA as well, Indians jabbed with Covishield be considered “vaccinated” and allowed “green entry” to the European countries.
“The thumb rule should be that vaccines approved by WHO should also be considered by the EMA for the ‘Green Pass’ programme, or the various European countries under EU should adopt the same,” a senior government official said.
Reacting to the issues faced by people regarding travel to the EU, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla said he had taken up the matter at the “highest levels".
I realise that a lot of Indians who have taken COVISHIELD are facing issues with travel to the E.U., 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.— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) June 28, 2021
As per the website of the EMA, only four vaccines have so far got approval for EU - Comirnaty (Pfizer), Spikemax (Moderna), Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) and Janssen. Four more vaccines are “currently under rolling review” including Sputnik V, but that does not include SII’s Covishield implying that SII is still to apply for clearance. EMA also says “no marketing authorization applications are currently under evaluation” with it.
The road for EMA clearance may however be tougher for India’s other vaccine, Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which it still to get clearance from the WHO too. A query sent by e-mail to EMA was unanswered by the time this report was published. It will be updated when the EMA responds.