China has made it mandatory for people coming from India and 19 other nations to get Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines if they want to travel to this country. “For the purpose of resuming people-to-people exchanges in an orderly manner, starting from 15 March, 2021, the Chinese Embassies and Consulates in India will provide the persons having taken Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine and holding the Certificates of Vaccination,” a notice posted on the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi said.
The announcement makes little difference for thousands of Indian students besides professionals working in China and their family members who are stuck in India awaiting Beijing to permit their return as there are no Chinese vaccines available in India. The Chinese Embassy notice did not specify how Indians can access the Chinese-made vaccines in India as they are not available in the country. Over 23,000 Indian students, most of them medical students, besides hundreds of professionals working in China are stuck in India since last year due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
Despite repeated representations from the Indian embassy and appeals by the students, China is yet to respond positively. State-run Global Times reported that such notices were put up by Chinese embassies in 20 countries.
Asked about the rationale of the regulation to have Chinese vaccines in countries like India where China made vaccines are not available, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here on Tuesday that many countries have floated the idea of linking vaccination status with opening up international travels. “Our proposal to facilitate the travel of those who have been inoculated with Chinese vaccines is made after thoroughly considering the safety and efficacy of Chinese vaccines,” he said.
“We believe this is a meaningful exploration of facilitating international travel once mass vaccination has been achieved. It is not linked to the recognition of Chinese vaccines,” he said. When pointed out that would it not be better if China recognised the vaccines endorsed by WHO, which is yet to approve the Chinese vaccines, Zhao said, “China’s proposal is a meaningful step. We are trying to facilitate international travel”.
“This is an arrangement made by the Chinese side unilaterally. It is a different thing from vaccine recognition,” he said. The WHO has already approved Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines. AstraZeneca vaccine is being produced by Serum Institute in Pune in the name of Covishield.