‘Restricting travel based on vaccines is counter-effective’: COVAX bats for equal recognition of COVID jabs

Calling for “equal recognition of vaccines”, COVAX on Thursday urged all governments to recognise as ‘fully vaccinated’ those people who have received COVID-19 vaccines deemed safe by WHO, saying any move that restricts travel of people based on the vaccines they have received is ‘counter-effective, both in spirit and outcome’.

In a statement, COVAX — the global alliance for equitable vaccine distribution — said it was built on the principle of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to protect the health of people all across the globe and that means protecting their lives and livelihoods, including their ability to travel and conduct trade.

“As travel and other possibilities begin to open up in some parts of the world, COVAX urges all regional, national and local government authorities to recognise as fully vaccinated all people who have received COVID-19 vaccines that have been deemed safe and effective by the World Health Organisation and/or the 11 Stringent Regulatory Authorities (SRAs) approved for COVID-19 vaccines, when making decisions on who is able to travel or attend events,” it said.

As per WHO, the 11 SRAs are Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Belgium’s Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP), Health Canada, EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA), France’s L’Agence nationale de securite du medicament et des produits de sante (ASNM), Germany’s Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), The Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA), The Medicines Evaluation Board of Netherlands, Swissmedic, UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).

COVAX noted that ‘any measure’ that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the re-opening of travel into and with that region “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”.

“It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most,” it said.

The statement noted that such moves are already undermining confidence in life-saving vaccines that have already been shown to be safe and effective, affecting uptake of vaccines and potentially putting billions of people at risk.

“At a time when the world is trying to resume trade, commerce and travel, this is counter-effective, both in spirit and outcome,” COVAX said.

COVAX commended countries that have already shown commitment to equity as well as safety by accepting travellers protected by all vaccines validated by WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL) and/or the 11 SRAs approved for COVID-19 vaccines. “We call on other nations and regions to do the same,” it said.

The COVAX statement comes as nations begin to re-open travel to vaccinated individuals.

There have however been apprehensions that some nations may not allow individuals to enter their regions if they have received certain vaccines.

The European Union’s Digital Covid certificate or ‘Green Pass’ came into effect Thursday with an aim to facilitate free movement during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under this framework, persons who have taken vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will be exempted from travel restrictions within the EU region.

India has already asked the EU member countries to individually consider allowing Indians who have taken Covishield and Covaxin vaccines and want to travel to Europe. There have been apprehensions in India that people who took Covishield and Covaxin jabs are unlikely to be eligible to travel to the European Union member states under its ‘Green Pass’ scheme.

The EU Digital Covid certificate or ‘Green Pass’ will be mandatory to travel to European countries and the document will serve as proof that a person is vaccinated against Covid-19.

An EU official on Tuesday said individual member states of the EU will have the option to accept vaccines authorised by WHO like Covishield for obtaining the bloc’s digital Covid certificate.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday took up the issue of inclusion of Covishield in the EU digital Covid certificate scheme during a meeting with Josep Borrell Fontelles, the High Representative of the European Union.

Nine European nations are accepting Covishield vaccines for travel to their countries, sources said on Thursday. Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland and Spain are among the countries allowing travel by people who have taken Covishield vaccines, the sources said.


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