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Tuesday, August 03, 2021

EU green pass row: Nine countries now say they will accept Covishield

Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, and Spain have confirmed they have included Covishield in their national list of approved vaccines, the sources said.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: July 2, 2021 5:05:43 am
Switzerland also allows Covishield, and Estonia has confirmed that it will recognise all vaccines authorised by the Indian government for travel to Estonia, they said. (File)

Nine countries in the European Union (EU) have conveyed to the Indian government that they will accept individuals vaccinated against Covid-19 with Covishield within their borders, sources said on Thursday.

Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, and Spain have confirmed they have included Covishield in their national list of approved vaccines, the sources said.

Switzerland also allows Covishield, and Estonia has confirmed that it will recognise all vaccines authorised by the Indian government for travel to Estonia, they said.

With the EU having drawn up a Digital Covid Certificate framework to facilitate free movement of vaccinated people from July 1, India has asked EU Member States to accept Covid-19 vaccines authorised by the World Health Organization (WHO) or national authorities for Indians travelling to Europe, sources had said on Wednesday.

Sources said India would begin a reciprocal policy on exemption from quarantine. This would mean that unless the EU accepts Covishield and Covaxin certificates issued by the Indian government, certificates issued by European national authorities would not be accepted in India, and people coming from the EU would have to undergo mandatory quarantine upon arrival in the country.

The EU’s resistance in accepting Indian-made vaccines for its ‘vaccination passport’ has prompted New Delhi to come up with this policy.

“We have noted that the European Union (EU) Digital Covid Certificate framework, to facilitate free movement during the Covid pandemic, is to come into effect from 1 July 2021. Under this framework, persons vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be exempted from travel restrictions within the EU. Individual member states have the flexibility to also accept vaccines that have been authorised at the national level or by the World Health Organisation,” the source said.

Sources said that Indian officials have requested EU Member States to individually consider extending exemptions to those who have been administered Covishield or Covaxin, and accept the vaccination certificate issued through the government’s CoWIN portal. The genuineness of such vaccination 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. 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 concerned EU Member State for exemption from mandatory quarantine all those persons carrying EU Digital Covid Certificate,” the source said.

Under the EU’s new “Green Pass” scheme, people vaccinated with Covishield are unlikely to be allowed to travel to the member states of the Union.

The EU countries accept only the vaccines approved by the EMA, which are Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen. Covishield, which is the Indian version of AstraZeneca, is yet to get clearance.

So far, only those vaccinated with any of these four vaccines — Comirnaty of Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Vaxzervria by AstraZeneca-Oxford, and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen — do not face travel restrictions.

Without EMA approval, nations importing and administering Covishield will face challenges. Indian-made Covaxin is awaiting approval from the WHO for emergency use.

On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar took up the issue of approving Covishield for travel to Europe during a meeting with Josep Borell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. The two leaders met on the margins of a meeting of the G20 Foreign Ministers in Italy.

“A comprehensive review of our relationship with EUHR VP @JosepBorrellF. Taking forward the agenda of the Leaders’ Summit. Discussed vaccine production and access. Took up ‘Covishield’ authorisation for travel to Europe. Will be following up,” Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.

On Wednesday, German Ambassador Walter Lindner tweeted that his country recognised 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”.

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