Some European nations approve India’s Covishield vaccine: Report

Germany and Spain among nine countries to accept travellers inoculated with India-made version of the AstraZeneca vaccine, foreign ministry sources say.

An official displays a vial of Covishield manufactured by the Serum Institute of India [File: Amit Dave/Reuters]

Germany and Spain are among nine countries in Europe to have told India they will accept travellers inoculated with Covishield, the Indian-made version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Indian foreign ministry sources said.

Friction emerged between India and Europe in recent days over the exclusion of Covishield as an accepted vaccine by the European Union vaccine passport programme.

From Thursday, the programme allows anyone who is fully vaccinated with any of five Western-made vaccines – Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca – to travel freely within the bloc, Reuters news agency reported.

The exclusion of Covishield, which is produced by India’s Serum Institute using methods analogous to the EU-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Vaxzevria but does not have EU market authorisation, stoked anger and the threat of retaliatory measures by India against travellers from Europe.

An Indian foreign ministry source said on Thursday that Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland had informed the Indian government that Covishield would be accepted for the purposes of travel.

Estonia has said it would recognise all the vaccines authorised by the Indian government, the source said, which would include Covaxin that has been developed by local firm Bharat Biotech.

Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs Subrahmanyan Jaishankar tweeted earlier in the week that he had taken up the issue of authorisation of the Indian version of Covishield during his meeting with EU representatives on the sidelines of a G20 foreign ministers meeting in Italy.

Another foreign ministry source said India had told the EU it would lift quarantine requirements for anyone carrying the EU Digital COVID certificate, but they would have to allow equal access to Indians travelling with vaccines made in India.

“We have also conveyed to EU Member States that India will institute a reciprocal policy for recognition of the EU Digital COVID Certificate,” the second source said.

Once the EU listed the two vaccines currently being administered in India in its digital certificate, then India will waive quarantine requirements from people coming from EU countries, the second source said.

Source: Reuters