AZ version missing on vaccine passport
European document snubs India-made shot
The European Union's much anticipated coronavirus digital certificate, intended to ease travel across the continent for the vaccinated, began Thursday amid widespread confusion.
But many would-be travellers — particularly those from poorer countries — do not meet the program's criteria because they received Astrazeneca shots produced by India's Serum Institute, which has not been approved by EU regulators.
The Serum Institute, however, is approved by the World Health Organization and is a major supplier to the Covax initiative, which is intended to ensure an equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines and is a main procurer of doses for many poorer countries.
As of Wednesday, only four Western-produced vaccines qualify under the EU certificate's criteria: Moderna, Pfizer-biontech, Johnson & Johnson and Astrazeneca doses, also called Vaxzevria, manufactured in Europe by Astrazeneca, which developed the vaccine with Oxford University.
Not on the list is the Serum Institute's Astrazeneca vaccine version, called Covishield, as it is not approved by the European Medicines Agency, the European Union's medical regulatory body.
WHO and Covax issued a joint statement Thursday criticizing as “counter-effective” vaccine travel certificates that do not include all Who-sanctioned versions.
“Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of Who-approved vaccines to benefit from the reopening of travel into and with that region 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 statement said. “It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most.”
Serum Institute chief executive Adar Poonawalla said Monday that he was working to resolve the issue as fast as possible. The institute has applied for EMA authorization. The Serum Institute's shots are chemically the same as those produced in Europe.