THE Indian-produced AstraZeneca vaccine is currently not accepted by the EU, which means 5 million Brits could find themselves excluded from the Covid-passport scheme when travelling to Europe.
The EU does not currently accept the Indian-produced AstraZeneca vaccine – identified as Covishield SII because it was made by Covishield at the Serum Institute of India (SII) – as part of its COVID Passport scheme because it is not listed on the EU approved vaccines, although it does appear on the list of WHO approved vaccines.
This means that 5 million prospective British travellers could face extra difficulty when travelling abroad this summer unless steps are taken to include it.
Although travellers from the UK are not yet included as part of the EU-wide digital COVID passport scheme, some countries, including Spain have already taken steps of their own to allow in British travellers with an NHS Covid pass.
Under rules introduced on Friday July 2, Spain will accept proof of vaccination, a negative Covid test or proof of recent recovery from the coronavirus.
However, it is currently unclear whether those who were jabbed with an Indian-produced AstraZeneca vaccine will be turned away from Spain as it is only possible to identify the origin based on batch numbers.
Health authorities in the UK said that all AstraZeneca doses used in the UK appeared under the name Vaxzevria in medical records and on the NHS app, even if they had come from India.
The batch numbers, that identify them as made in India are: 4120Z001, 4120Z002 and 4120Z003.
There is no evidence to suggest that the Covishield SII vaccine is less effective than the other vaccines accepted by the EU.
While there are no publicised figures on how many people in the UK have had the Indian-produced vaccine, it is widely accepted that 5 million doses were imported earlier this year.
Many people in Africa and Asia have also received the Covishield SII vaccine, with officials of the Africa Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance (AUVDC) troubled by the discovery that the vaccine is not accepted.
They believe it creates a ‘two-tiered vaccine system’ and differentiates between the quality of the received vaccine.
Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the AUVDC believes that this creates a notion that African countries have received a ‘worse’ vaccine, despite Covidshield being no less effective than the rest. And, in her opinion this highlights the exclusivity of the scheme.
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