Indians who have been worried about their future plans to travel to Europe can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Yesterday (July 1), nine European countries reportedly recognised the Covishield vaccine, which is produced by the Serum Institue of India and is the most-used brand in the country.
The development came on the same day when the European Union started its green pass, which allows anyone who is fully vaccinated with any of the five accepted vaccines—Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and the AstraZeneca shot manufactured and sold in Europe as Vaxzervria—to travel within the bloc.
The exclusion of Covishield, which is being made using the master seed of the EU-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, had stoked anger among Indians.
Though Covishield now has a wider acceptance, out of all the nine countries, only Estonia allowed Indian travellers inoculated with India’s homegrown vaccine, Covaxin.
Though these countries accept Covishield, Indians will still need to check country-specific guidelines before making travel plans. For example, Germany has not lifted the travel ban for people coming from India.
Delta variant and travel from India
While there has been a lot of interest among Indians about whether or not their vaccines make them eligible for foreign travel, the fact is that most people in the country cannot plan international trips as of now because India has extended the suspension on scheduled international flights till July 31.
This suspension may get extended due to the fears around the Delta variant, which originated from India and now has been detected in at least 96 countries so far. Delta variant is 55% more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was first detected in the UK, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Currently, international travel in India is taking place only under the established air travel bubbles with 27 countries under certain guidelines. Flights are also available under the government’s repatriation mission, Vande Bharat. At present, the mission is in its 11th phase which will continue until Oct. 31.
What’s happening with India’s Covishield and Covaxin?
The EU green pass’s exclusion of Covishield did not only erk Indians but also upset the Narendra Modi government.
The exclusions seemed unfair especially because SII, the world’s largest manufacturer of the Covid-19 vaccines, has been approved by the WHO and is a major supplier to the Covax initiative, which aims at ensuring equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
The recognition by the nine European nations came a day after the Indian government requested members of the EU to individually consider allowing Indians who have taken Covishield and Covaxin.
The government also reportedly assured these nations that once the Indian vaccines will be included in the green pass, India will also provide an exemption from mandatory quarantine for people coming from the European countries.
WHO and the EU green pass
The WHO on July 1 said that any of the Covid-19 vaccines that have its approval for emergency use should be recognised by countries as they open up their borders to inoculated travellers.
“Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the reopening of travel … would effectively create a two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide and exacerbating the inequities we have already seen in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines,” a WHO statement read. “It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most.”
The WHO has recognised Covishield but Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is still waiting for its nod.