Australia accepts COVAXIN as 'recognized' vaccine for incoming travelers
Australia on Monday accepted India's indigenous vaccine, COVAXIN, as a "recognized" vaccine for the purpose of travel to the country. The country had already recognized Covishield, the Indian brand name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Notably, the decision came days before the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the World Health Organization (WHO) meets for the final assessment of COVAXIN's much-awaited Emergency Use Listing (EUL).
Approval of COVAXIN as a recognized vaccine will help Indians traveling to the country as they would be treated as fully vaccinated. The recognition by the Australian government is likely to boost COVAXIN's acceptance among the international community. There had been concerns about the vaccine's safety and efficacy amid the hold-up for the WHO's EUL.
Australia's regulatory authority for therapeutic goods, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), said Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN and Chinese Sinopharm's BBIBP-CorV vaccines would now be accepted as "recognized" vaccines while establishing a traveler's vaccination status. "This recognition is for travelers aged 12 and over who have been vaccinated with COVAXIN, and those 18 to 60 who have been vaccinated with BBIBP-CorV," it said.
The TGA said additional information on COVAXIN demonstrated that the vaccine provides protection and reduces the likelihood of transmission. It said COVAXIN and BBIBP-CorV "potentially reduce the likelihood that an incoming traveler would transmit COVID-19 infection to others while in Australia or become acutely unwell due to COVID-19." The supporting information was provided by vaccine sponsors and/or the WHO, the TGA added.
Citizens from India and China or any other country where these vaccines have been administered "will now be considered fully vaccinated on entry to Australia." The move will impact the return of international students and workers to Australia.
Travelers who are considered "unvaccinated" face quarantine restrictions in Australia. All travelers would be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test before boarding. Previously, Australia had only allowed the arrival of select citizens and permanent residents abroad with a mandatory 14-day paid quarantine in a hotel. Controversially, there were some relaxations for foreign travelers on economic grounds, including some Hollywood stars
The WHO's TAG meets for the final assessment of COVAXIN on Wednesday. Last week, TAG had sought "one additional piece of information" from Bharat Biotech to conduct a final EUL risk-benefit assessment for the vaccine's global use. So far, COVAXIN has been recognized by several countries including Estonia, Greece, Iran, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal, Oman, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Zimbabwe.