By Uday Sampath Kumar and Ankur Banerjee
BENGALURU (Reuters) - Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla said on Monday he was trying to resolve EU travel problems facing Indians who have been inoculated with SII's licensed version of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine.
A European Union vaccine passport programme will allow people to travel freely within the bloc from July 1, as long as they have had one of four Western-made vaccines.
While this includes the AstraZeneca shot, it does not extend to Covishield, the Indian version produced by SII.
"I have taken this up at the highest levels and hope to resolve this matter soon, both with regulators and at a diplomatic level with countries," Poonawalla said on Twitter.
India's Ministry of External Affairs has raised the issue of Covishield's lack of recognition by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Economic Times reported on Monday.
Some countries, including Germany, Greece and Spain, have already put it in place the "EU Digital COVID Certificate" before it comes into effect.
In addition to the AstraZeneca shot, known as Vaxzevria in the region, the other EU-recognised vaccines are those made by Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson.
The EU and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.
The EMA said the only COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca for which a marketing authorisation application had been submitted and evaluated, leading to its authorisation, was Vaxzevria.
Covishield does not currently have marketing authorisation in the EU, even though it may use an analogous production technology to Vaxzevria, the agency said.
"Should we receive a marketing authorisation application for Covishield or should any change to the approved manufacturing sites for Vaxzevria be approved, we would communicate about it," the EMA said in a statement.
The European Commission website states that vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorisation have to be accepted for the certificate, while member states can choose to also accept vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). (https://bit.ly/2U6fOqS)
India is the world's largest maker of vaccines, thanks mainly to SII, and has supplied doses to nearly 100 countries.
Reuters reported in April that the EU was seeking 10 million Covishield doses from SII to meet a shortfall, before India halted all exports amid a domestic infection surge.
Last year, AstraZeneca partnered with SII to supply the vaccine to the Indian Government, as well as to a large number of low and middle-income countries.
Covishield accounts for about 88% of the 322 million doses so far administered in India, the country's CoWIN vaccination registration platform shows.
Many vaccinated with India's Covaxin shot also face travel difficulties, as it has yet to be approved by the WHO.
Apart from the four EU-approved vaccines, the WHO has put Covishield and vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac on the list for emergency use.
(Reporting by Uday Sampath and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels; Editing by Alexander Smith)