Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has expressed India’s concern over the issue of “vaccine passport" proposed by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the G7 Summit.
In the G7 Plus Ministerial session on Friday, Harsh Vardhan included the matter in his address. He expressed India’s strong opposition to “vaccine passport" at this juncture of the pandemic, as per the minister’s tweet. He added that with “vaccine coverage as a percentage of population in developing countries is still low compared to developed countries, such an initiative could prove to be highly discriminatory."
CNN News 18 has learnt that UK is believed to have acknowledged that vaccine passports would make sense only when vaccines were themselves available.
The communique issued after the meeting said, “We recognise that there is a need for multilateral collaboration on a standards-based, minimum data set for COVID-19 testing and vaccination verification that can be used internationally as necessary. We should work within existing WHO processes to develop international standards and recommended practices for the creation, use, and mutual acceptance of testing results and vaccination certificates across countries."
But it also added, “We should work to ensure that processes and national certification policies do not disadvantage certain groups of people… The usage of vaccination certificates should be based on the latest scientific evidence and the current epidemiological situation. We are committed to work as G7 countries towards a process of mutual acceptance of COVID-19 certificates."
Earlier this week, Johnson had indicated that he would like to push the G7 to look at the possibility of agreeing on the issue of “vaccine passport". The proposal, ostensibly, was to ease international travel and would involve recording immunity, vaccination or test in the “vaccine passport", however, there have been concerns over whether countries may rely heavily on vaccination records alone that could create hurdles for citizens whose countries are unable to increase the pace of vaccination due to manufacturing limitations.
For India, there is another unique concern. Its indigenous vaccine, Covaxin, manufactured by Bharat Biotech is yet to get a World Health Organisation (WHO) approval. If countries only recognise WHO-approved vaccines, that again could create problems for Indians who have taken the Covaxin jabs.
As per government sources, 90 per cent documentation has been done by Bharat Biotech for Emergency Use Listing (EUL) and it is hopeful of submitting the rest by June end for final clearance. Additional data from the ongoing Phase 3 clinical trial is awaited.
This was discussed in a May 24 meeting between Bharat Biotech and the Indian government officials. The meeting was attended by Dr V Krishna Mohan, MD, Bharat Biotech International Ltd, and his colleagues and senior officers of the Ministry of Health, Department of Biotechnology and Ministry of External Affairs.
India, South Korea and Australia have been invited to the G7 Summit this year that will be hosted by the UK in Cornwall from June 11-13. Due to the devastating second wave of COVID-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be participating virtually. The leaders of the seven most advanced economies of the world — US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and UK — will meet in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The 2020 summit that was to be hosted by the US was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The major topic of discussion will be world COVID recovery and building back better from it. Climate change and trade will be the other specific issues discussed at the summit.