Grant Shapps outlines the 'way forward' for vaccine passports
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As many as five million double-vaccinated Britons could be turned away from the European Union (EU) because the specific jab they were given has not yet been approved within the bloc. Millions of the AstraZeneca jabs administered across the UK were developed in India.
According to The Telegraph, this could mean the jabs are not recognised by the EU Digital Covid Certificate which is currently being rolled out across member nations to facilitate travel.
European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved a selection of vaccines including Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in the UK or Europe sold under the brand name Vaxzevria.
The AstraZeneca vaccine made in India is called Covishield, produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Vaccine types can be identified by their batch number – 4120Z001, 4120Z002, 4120Z003.
This number is displayed on vaccine cards and can also be found on the NHS Covid travel pass.
When travelling under the EU Covid pass scheme, officials will be able to see which batch of vaccine a traveller has received.
The Department of Health has refused to comment on how many of the India-made jabs were dished out in the UK.
“As we continue to cautiously reopen international travel, NHS Covid Pass will be a key service that allows people to demonstrate their Covid-19 vaccination status,” a spokesperson for the Department of Health told The Telegraph.
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The spokesperson added that Britons will not have been told which batch of the jab they were given when they received it.
All AstraZeneca jabs given in the UK have been done so under the brand name Vaxzevria, rather than the Indian name.
This is why the batch numbers are so important, as they are still identifiable.
“All AstraZeneca vaccines given in the UK are the same product and appear on the NHS Covid Pass as Vaxzevria,” explained the Government spokesperson.
The EU decision not to include the SII version of AstraZeneca already impacts millions across Asia and Africa, where the Indian manufactured jab is widely offered.
However, the bloc has not yet given an official confirmation as to whether or not it will be banning Britons from travelling.
“Entry into the EU should be allowed to people fully vaccinated with one of the vaccines authorised in the EU,” a spokesperson from the European Commission explained.
“Member States are…not required to issue certificates for a vaccine that is not authorised on their territory.”
The reason the EMA has not yet authorised the Indian vaccine is simply because SII has not obtained a license for the product in Europe due to its focus on low and middle-income countries.
It comes as airline bosses encourage the UK Government to work in partnership with the EU travel pass to “streamline” international travel.
“The bit that’s uncertain is [whether] European countries will welcome in UK visitors without any restrictions,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary told Bloomberg.
“Will they accept the NHS app or will they have to produce other documentary evidence that they have been vaccinated.”
He added: “In our view, the best thing would be to join the EU digital Covid certificate with the NHS app in the UK and therefore you’d have seamless travel.”
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