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Millions of Britons who received Covishield vaccine will face an EU travel ban

DUBLIN: As the EU Digital COVID Certificate does not recognise the Indian-made Covishield vaccine, British travellers hoping to visit Europe this summer will face an extra challenge. Covishield’s disapproval is now a major setback for travelers from the UK who already find it difficult to enter the European Union due to strict restrictions and fast changing rules.

The EU’s vaccine passport system will allow travellers to enter European nations without being subjected to any restrictions, including quarantine and COVID-19 testing. All EU member states, except Ireland, issued the certificate on Thursday, July 1. The vaccine passport, which is available in both digital and paper forms, includes information about a person’s status as fully vaccinated, recently tested negative, or fully recovered from the virus.

According to the EU policy, the vaccine passport system only recognises COVID-19 vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Vaxzevria, and Johnson & Johnson. However, following the intervention of the Indian government, ten European countries – Austria, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain Switzerland and Iceland – have accepted the Covishield vaccine developed by Serum Institute of India (SII).  

The SII jab provides the same protection as the British-made AstraZeneca vaccine, but because the names differed on the list, those who received Covishield were denied entry into the EU. Over five million people in the UK, as well as Indians who received India’s AstraZeneca vaccine, are frustrated due to the EU’s strict policy.

However, it is hoped that the remaining EU nations will also accept the Covishield vaccine in the coming days, as the Indian government has taken a firm stance that if Indian-made vaccines are not approved by EU member states, those coming from Europe will also be denied quarantine exemption in India. It has been learned that the Serum Institute has applied for EMA authorisation.


Meanwhile, the British government is in negotiations with Brussels about recognising the NHS COVID pass across the EU. Some member states, such as Greece and Spain, have already accepted the NHS app. It also shows proof of vaccination, a negative COVID test or recovery.

However, due to concerns over a surge in Delta variant cases in the UK, the EU has not included Britain on the green list. This means that even if the talks with Brussels are successful, EU member states will still need to add the UK to its travel green list. The EU recently added ten new countries to the list, including Azerbaijan, Canada and Saudi Arabia.

A UK government spokesperson said that the COVID pass will be “a key service” as international travel was resumed, and hinted at a possible solution to the Covishield vaccine issue. “All AstraZeneca vaccines given in the UK are the same product and appear on the NHS COVID pass as Vaxzevria,” he said.

Prof Adam Finn, from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said: “The most important part of this is that people who have received these batches should be reassured that they have received exactly the same stuff as people who have received other batches made elsewhere.

“This is an administrative hurdle that needs to be straightened out but people should not be concerned that they are in some way less well protected. We’re in the early days of this new world of needed vaccine passports and there are lots of aspects of this that are still being sorted out for the first time,” he added.

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