Union Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar. Photo: PTI
New Delhi: Even as the process of recognition of Covishield and Covaxin by the EU’s drugs regulator for its ‘Green Pass’ vaccine-passport scheme will take some time, India has approached each of the 27 members states to set up a reciprocal policy of recognition of vaccine certificates to allow for travellers to skip quarantine.[Update: 12:55 pm, July 1, 2021] And in response to India’s request, Austria, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Slovenia and Spain have agreed to include Covishield on their lists of permitted vaccines. As a result, Covishield recipients in India can be eligible to receive ‘Green Passes’ under the EU plan.
However, neither these nor the EU’s other 20 member-states have admitted Covaxin. As a result, Covaxin recipients travelling to EU countries will be deemed to be ‘unvaccinated’, and will have to follow the protocols applicable to this group.
There had been a flurry of criticism in India after it emerged that the EU’s vaccine passport programme excludes vaccines administered in India. EU officials had pointed out that neither of the two companies had approached the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for certification of emergency use.
As The Wire reported on Tuesday, the EMA’s policy on the Green pass was finalised after serpentine negotiations that were guided by geo-political considerations to keep away Russian and Chinese vaccines.
Another alternative way was for EU member states to also accept vaccines that have been authorised nationally or given WHO approval. However, while some states like Germany have already done so, applying to all the EU member states individually was a complicated path.
However, India seems to have gone that way. “We have requested EU member states to individually consider extending similar exemption to those persons who have taken COVID-19 vaccines in India, that is, Covishield and Covaxin, and accept the vaccination certificate issued through the CoWIN portal,” said a source.
India also told EU states that it would institute a reciprocal policy to recognise the EU digital COVID-19 certificate.
“Upon notification of Covishield and Covaxin for inclusion in the EU Digital Covid Certificate and recognition of Indian CoWIN vaccination certificates, Indian health authorities would reciprocally exempt the EU member state concerned for exemption from the mandatory quarantine of all those persons carrying EU digital COVID certificate,” the source said.
A national of an EU country that does not recognise specific COVID-19 vaccines in India will have spend more time in quarantine.
The European Union’s Digital COVID-10 certificate framework to facilitate free movement during the COVID-19 pandemic will come into effect on Thursday, July 1.
External affairs minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday took up the issue of inclusion of Covishield in the EU digital COVID-19 certificate scheme during a meeting with Josep Borrell Fontelles, the high representative of the European Union. The meeting took place on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Italy.
Meanwhile, Serum Institute of India’s chief executive officer, Adar Poonawalla, stated that there is no reason why EMA won’t approve Covishield since the vaccine is originally developed by AstraZeneca and is “more or less identical” to the one being manufactured in the UK.
“We are quite confident that in a month, EMA will approve Covishield. There is no reason not to, because it is based on AstraZeneca data and our product is identical to AstraZeneca more or less, and it has been approved by WHO, UK MHRA. So it’s just a matter of time. It is not really going to hinder anything,” he added.
He said that Serum Institute of India had applied for the inclusion of Covishield through its partner AstraZeneca. “The EMA is absolutely correct in asking us to apply, which we have through AstraZeneca, our partners, a month ago, and [that process has to take its time. An approval process even with UK MHRA, WHO took its time, and we have applied to the EMA,” Poonawalla said at India Global Forum 2021.
While Poonawalla claimed that SII had applied a month ago, EU officials had stated that there had been no application for Covishield till Tuesday.
(With PTI inputs)