Britons have been assured that “an administrative hurdle” will be “straightened out” following concerns millions could miss out on travel to the EU this summer as their COVID jabs aren’t recognised.
It has been reported that up to five million Britons will not qualify for the EU’s vaccine passport scheme because the AstraZeneca shots they received were manufactured in India.
These doses are not recognised by the EU’s drug regulator, the European Medicines Agency, and so effectively bars those who have received India-made vaccines from using their vaccinated status to travel to the bloc.
According to The Daily Telegraph, the EU Digital COVID certificate – the bloc’s vaccine passport scheme – will not recognise a version of the AstraZeneca vaccine called Covishield.
The newspaper said up to five million doses of this version of the vaccine have been administered in the UK and are identifiable by the vaccine batch numbers 4120Z001, 4120Z002, and 4120Z003.
However, it has been reported elsewhere that nine European countries – Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Estonia and Switzerland – will accept the India-made version of the AstraZeneca jab.
And Professor Adam Finn – from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – said people should not be concerned about having had AstraZeneca doses manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
“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,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“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.
“But it’s clearly, ultimately not in anyone’s interest, including the EU, to create hurdles that don’t need to be there.”
He added: “I would anticipate that this will get straightened out in due course.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that any COVID-19 vaccines it has authorised for emergency use should be recognised as part of schemes to reopen international travel.
Its stance will challenge Western countries to accept two Chinese vaccines – Sinovac and Sinopharm – as well as those produced by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
“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,” the WHO said in a statement.
“It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most.”