With the European Union (EU) forming a EU Digital Covid Certificate framework to facilitate free movement from July 1, India has asked EU member-states to accept Covid-19 vaccines authorised by the World Health Organization (WHO) or national authorities, such as Covishield and Covaxin, for Indians travelling to Europe, sources said on Wednesday.
The EU’s resistance in accepting India-made vaccines for its ‘vaccination passport’ has also prompted New Delhi to come up with a policy.
Sources said India will begin a reciprocal policy when it comes to exemption from quarantine. This would mean that unless the EU accepts Covishield and Covaxin certificates, their certificates will not be accepted here, and people from the EU will face mandatory quarantine upon arrival in India.
A source said: “We have noted that the EU Digital Covid Certificate framework, to facilitate free movement during the pandemic, is to come into effect from July 1. Under this framework, persons vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be exempted from travel restrictions within EU. Individual member-states have the flexibility to also accept vaccines that have been authorised at the national level or by the WHO.”
Sources said Indian officials have requested EU member-nations to individually consider extending a similar exemption to those who have taken Covishield and Covaxin in India and accept the vaccination certificate issued through the CoWIN portal. The genuineness of such certification can be authenticated on the CoWIN portal, the source said.
“We have also conveyed to EU member-states that India will institute a reciprocal policy for recognition of the EU Digital Covid Certificate,” the source said. “Upon notification of Covishield and Covaxin for inclusion in 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 mandatory quarantine of all those carrying EU Digital Covid Certificate.”
Under the new “Green Pass” scheme, people vaccinated with Covishield are unlikely to be allowed to travel to EU member-states of EU.
The EU countries accept only vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen. Covishield, the Indian version of AstraZeneca, is yet to get their clearance.
So far, only those vaccinated with either of the four vaccines — Comirnaty of Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Vaxzervria by AstraZeneca-Oxford, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen — do not face travel restrictions.
Without EMA’s approval, nations importing and administering Covishield will face challenges. India-made Covaxin is awaiting approval from the WHO for emergency use authorisation.
On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had taken up the issue of approving Covishield for travel to Europe during a meeting with Josep Borell, EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. The two leaders met on the margins of a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Italy.
On Wednesday, German ambassador Walter Lindner tweeted that his country recognises a double shot of Covishield as “valid proof of anti-Covid vaccination”. He added that this “does nevertheless not modify existing travel or visa restrictions for travellers from areas of concern/virus variants areas”.