Seven EU nations, Switzerland approve India-made Covishield for 'Green Pass'
The European Union's (EU) Digital COVID Certificate framework to allow easier, restriction-free movement of vaccinated travelers within European countries—excluding India-made Covishield and COVAXIN vaccines—comes into force on Thursday. However, India on Wednesday requested members of the 27-nation grouping to individually consider allowing those who have received Covishield and COVAXIN jabs, following which seven EU member-nations and Switzerland have included Covishield to their approved lists.
EU exempted Covishield, COVAXIN from list of approved vaccines
Under the EU's Digital COVID Certificate or Green Pass scheme, only four vaccines—Vaxzevria (from Oxford-AstraZeneca), Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech), Spikevax (Moderna), and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)—are approved. Those who received Covishield—the Indian version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India—are unlikely to be permitted to travel to EU nations. Meanwhile, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN is also excluded from the Green Pass list.
EU on why it didn't approve Covishield under its scheme
On the other hand, the EU claimed that Covishield wasn't approved under the Green Pass scheme as the Serum Institute didn't apply for requisite permissions from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Separately, COVAXIN is still awaiting the World Health Organization's approval for emergency use authorization. To note, without the EMA's approval, countries that have been importing and administering these vaccines will also face challenges.
India won't consider EU vaccination certificates without India-made vaccines' approval
Meanwhile, the EU's refusal to allow travelers who received India-made vaccines has also prompted India to toughen its stand on its Green Pass scheme. India has come up with a reciprocal policy under which—unless the EU recognizes Covishield and COVAXIN vaccines—the EU's Digital COVID Certificates will not be accepted in India and travelers from European countries won't even be exempted from mandatory COVID-19 quarantine.
EU member-states have flexibility to individually accept other vaccines
"Under this (EU Digital COVID Certificate) framework, persons vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be exempted from travel restrictions within EU," a source told Indian Express. "Individual member-states have the flexibility to also accept vaccines that have been authorized at the national level or by the WHO (World Health Organization)," noted the source.
India requests EU members to individually consider accepting Covishield, COVAXIN
Subsequently, India had asked the EU member-nations to individually consider exempting people who have taken Covishield and COVAXIN jabs from their travel restrictions, the source said. It had also asked the EU countries to accept such travelers' vaccination certificates issued through the Indian Government's Co-WIN portal on which the genuineness of these certificates can also be authenticated.
India even informed EU member-states of its reciprocal policy
India has also apprised EU member-states of its reciprocal policy for recognition of the EU Digital COVID Certificates. "Upon notification of Covishield and COVAXIN for inclusion in EU Digital COVID Certificate and recognition of Indian Co-WIN 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," said the source.
Germany recognizes Covishield as eligible proof of vaccine for travel
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Germany became the first EU member-nation to recognize Covishield as an eligible proof of vaccine for travel. "Confirming that a double shot of Covishield is fully recognized by GER as valid proof of anti-COVID vaccination (this does nevertheless not modify existing travel or visa restrictions for travelers from areas of concern/virus variants areas)," tweeted Germany's Ambassador to India, Walter J Lindner.
List of other EU countries that have now approved Covishield
Apart from Germany, six other EU member nations - Spain, Ireland, Austria, Greece, Iceland, and Slovenia - and Switzerland have approved Covishield. This means, Indians who have received Covishield will now be exempt from travel restrictions in these countries, and travelers with vaccination certificates from these nations will face no mandatory quarantine in India.