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Seven EU countries, Switzerland accept Covishield for green travel pass

Seven EU countries, Switzerland accept Covishield for green travel pass

Seven European Union countries including Austria, Germany, 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, according to reliable sources.

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.

Only those who've been given these shots are granted vaccination passports, and allowed to travel hassle-free amid the pandemic.

Covishield, manufactured in India by the world's largest manufacturer Serum Institute of India – in partnership with the Oxford University and AstraZeneca – is not on the EMA  list. Bharat Biotech's Covaxin is also not on the list.

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.

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.

Last month, the Indian government had opposed to the idea of a vaccine passports at a meeting of health ministers from G7 countries.

"Expressed India's concern & strong opposition to 'Vaccine Passport' at this juncture of the #pandemic. With vaccine coverage as a % of population in developing countries still low compared to developed countries, such an initiative could prove to be highly discriminatory," Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan had tweeted after the meeting.