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British PM Boris Johnson strongly backs Covishield for green passport

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came out strongly in favour of Indian-made Covishield vaccine being included in the green passport schemes

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday came out strongly in favour of Indian-made Covishield vaccine being included in the green passport schemes.

"I see no reason at all why the MHRA-approved vaccines should not be recognised as part of the vaccine passports and I'm very confident that that will not prove to be a problem," Johnson said at a joint news conference with Angela Merkel.

About 5 million people in Britain are reported to have been administered the Covishield vaccine made by Serum Institute of India in collaboration with UK pharma giant AstraZeneca.

Also read: Seven EU countries, Switzerland accept Covishield for green travel pass

Germany is among the European countries that have now approved Covishield. The EU did not initially recognise Covishield which is the Indian brand of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine on the ground that it had not been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Seven European Union countries including, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland and Spain along with Switzerland have now cleared the Serum Institute of India's Covishield vaccine as eligible for a green travel pass after the raging controversy over the issue.

Earlier the EU nations were accepting only vaccines approved by The European Medicines Agency (EMA) to issue the green pass for travellers which exempts those inoculated from undergoing quarantine on arrival. The EMA has approved only four vaccines so far – Pfizer-BioNTech's Comirnaty, US pharma giant Moderna's Covid vaccine, AstraZeneca shot manufactured and sold in Europe as Vaxzervria, and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen.

As the controversy had flared up, India had also decided to begin a reciprocal policy when it comes to exemption from quarantine. This would mean that unless the European Union accepts Covishield and Covaxin certificates, their certificates will not be accepted in the country and people from the EU will face mandatory quarantine upon arrival in India.

Also read: Jaishankar takes up Covishield recognition issue with EU at meeting in Italy

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had on Tuesday taken up the issue of inclusion of Covishield in the European Union (EU) COVID-19 Vaccination Passport with a top EU official and said he would pursue the matter further.

In what appears to be a clear case of discrimination, the EU green pass recognises only AstraZeneca shots produced in Britain and the company’s other factories in Europe and thus approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Anyone vaccinated with an AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India would not be qualified to get the pass. Apart from Indians, this includes most citizens of low- and middle-income countries who were immunised with vaccines distributed by the WHO co-sponsored COVAX initiative.

Most of the COVAX facility’s global procurement and distribution was built around the Covishield brand of the AstraZeneca vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India.

Other countries recognise Covishield as it has been approved by the WHO. The EU move, therefore, was clearly out of sync with the global practice on the issue.