Europe’s new ‘vaccine passport’ programme, which recognises a few COVID-19 vaccines to enable people to travel in and out of Europe with few hurdles, includes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine but not the version manufactured in India – Covishield.
What does this mean for Indian travellers? Can they still enter European Union (EU)? Will there be quarantine restrictions? Here’s all you need to know.
What is EU’s ‘Green Pass’?
The immunity passport or ‘Green Pass’, available from 1 July, will serve as proof that the individual has been vaccinated against COVID-19, or has recently tested negative against it, or has natural immunity build up from an earlier version.
The proof of vaccination only includes those who have taken vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Isn’t AstraZeneca and Covishield the same? Why has the latter not received permission?
The Serum Institute of India (SII), Pune, which has the licence from AstraZeneca to make Covishield in India, has not applied to get Covishield approved by the EMA, The Wire Science reported.
The EMA has also confirmed that they have not received an approval application for Covishield.
Does this mean that Indians vaccinated with Covishield cannot travel to Europe?
No, this is untrue. The European Commission says that vaccination is not a precondition for travel. However, you will be required to undergo the required quarantine/isolation guidelines in that country.
The Digital Green Certificate contains three types of COVID-19 certificates:
Certificate of recovery
You can travel with a negative NAAT test, such as an RT-PCR test, or a rapid antigen test. Self tests are not included in this.
"“Persons who are not vaccinated must be able to continue to exercise their free movement rights, where necessary subject to limitations such as testing or quarantine/self-isolation.”" - European Commission
What difference will an approval make exactly?
Let’s take France for example. Passengers will first have to produce a negative RT-PCR report at the point of boarding and will be tested again once they reach France.
Those who have been vaccinated will have to “pledge to self-isolate for seven days”. However, those who have not been vaccinated will have to undergo “mandatory 10-day quarantine supervised by security forces”.
France only considers EMA-approved vaccines. Therefore, those vaccinated with both doses of Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V – will NOT be considered vaccinated in France and will have to undergo 10-day institutional quarantine.
The same is the case for Germany as well. And from 1 July, the entire EU.
Will Covishield get approval any time soon?
There is no clarity about this yet. While we do not know exactly how long the approval will take, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla tweeted that he “taken this up at the highest levels” and hopes to resolve the issue soon.
What about other vaccines approved in India like Covaxin or Sputnik V?
None of the vaccines approved for use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V – have been approved by the EMA.
Which vaccines have got the approval for EU’s vaccine passport programme so far?
Only four vaccines have been approved so far, Economic Times reported:
Janssen-Johnson & Johnson
This means Covishield and Covaxin are neither approved by US or EU. What happens if I want to travel to US?
The United States has not lifted its travel ban on India but those who have students' visa (F-1) can travel to the country. Some other categories that are of national interest exception categories are also allowed to travel.
However, it is important to note that mandatory vaccination is not yet a requirement for educational institutes, but companies may have different set of vaccine rules.
Is there any country I can travel to without vaccination?
Russia, Serbia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Ghana, South Africa, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Albania are the countries open for Indian travellers. Those travelling from India do not need to be quarantined in these countries.
Negative RT-PCR is all that a traveller will need to enter these countries.
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