UK recognizes Covishield, but Indians still need to quarantine
The United Kingdom on Wednesday revised its travel advisory, listing Covishield as an approved COVID-19 vaccine. Earlier, the UK had not recognized Covishield as a legitimate vaccine, drawing major flak. The development comes a day after India warned the UK of "reciprocal measures" if the issue is not resolved. However, Indians vaccinated with Covishield would still need to quarantine in the UK upon entry.
According to the revised travel advisory, AstraZeneca Covishield, AstraZeneca Vaxzevria, and Moderna Takeda shall now qualify as approved vaccines to travel to the country. Earlier, the UK had approved only Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Janssen as legitimate COVID-19 vaccines. Travelers must have completed the course of these vaccines at least 14 days before their arrival, the new guidelines stated.
Notably, a UK High Commission statement said on Tuesday that the government has an issue with vaccine certification. Hence, Indians vaccinated with Covishield would still need to quarantine in the UK. Under the revised rules, only those vaccinated with the aforementioned shots by a "relevant public health body" in certain countries will be considered "fully vaccinated." This list does not include India.
Meanwhile, Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India which manufactures the Covishield vaccine, told NDTV that he is delighted by the development. However, he said, the quarantine matter remains pending and travelers should carefully follow entry guidelines. National Health Authority CEO RS Sharma said there are "no issues" with Co-WIN and vaccine certification, adding that the system is WHO (World Health Organization) compliant.
On Monday, India termed the UK government's non-recognition of Covishield "discriminatory," saying the move impacts Indian citizens traveling to that country. Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had warned the UK that India might also take "reciprocal measures" if the issue is not resolved. Separately, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had also raised the issue with the UK Foreign Secretary for an "early resolution."
Addressing a press conference, Shringla had said, "(We) have raised the discriminatory nature of UK vaccine recognition for AstraZeneca but not Covishield. Discussion is on, but if they do not satisfy us, we would be well within our rights to take reciprocal action."
An earlier travel advisory of the UK had said people from India and a few other countries will be considered "unvaccinated" even if they had been given two doses of Covishield—a bioequivalent of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine used in the UK. Other countries included South America, UAE, Turkey, Thailand, Russia, etc. The non-recognition of Covishield had sparked intense criticism and concerns in India.