The Covishield Predicament Finally Seems to End

COVID Vaccine
Photo by Steven Cornfield on Unsplash

Covishield was listed for emergency use by the WHO in February.

India has so far overwhelmingly administered Covishield jabs – they account for more than 290 million of the 350 or so million vaccinations given so far. Covishield is the Indian-made version of AstraZeneca’s Vaxzevria jab, which has been authorised in the EU. It’s manufactured in India by Serum, the world’s largest vaccine maker.

Friction had emerged between India and Europe in recent days over the exclusion of Covishield as an accepted vaccine by the European Union vaccine passport programme. 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. Even Adar Poonawala, Serum Institute’s supremo had tweeted assuring all the Indians who had taken Covishield that he’ll take up the matter to the highest of authorities and the predicament would soon be resolved.

India’s version of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine was not authorised in the EU due to the possibility of “differences” with the original, Europe’s drug regulator said Wednesday. Even the African Union had complained regarding this as the cheaper Covishield manufactured in India has widely been injected in Africa. The WHO had recognized and approved Indian-made Covishield but the EU not doing so was creating somewhat of a diplomatic rift between Europe, Africa and India.

However, all of this started to resolve from the first day of July as nine countries under the EU including Germany and Spain when they would approve the travelers inoculated with India-made version of the AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccine to visit their countries and accepted it under the EU’s Green Pass Scheme.

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 travelers from Europe. An Indian foreign ministry source said to Al Jazeera 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.

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