The European Union has officially launched a brand new vaccine passport scheme to help double-jabbed travellers and citizens travel through Europe without having to quarantine. This comes as a relief to many people who have been fully vaccinated. However, almost five million Brits have been left out from this benefit as the EU does not recognise three specific batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in India.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) has been manufacturing large numbers of the AstraZeneca dose, but in the subcontinent it is known as Covishield. Earlier this year, they provided the UK with five million doses, which were then rolled out in the country.
They may have different names, but Covishield and AstraZeneca are identical vaccines—the only difference is the location of production. The EU has left it out of the list of approved vaccines because it is yet to be authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
As a result, five million people will not be able to travel to Europe unless they agree to recognise this version of the vaccine. This has left many affected Brits deeply disappointed and betrayed. One of the affected spoke to TheTelegraph saying:
Quite frankly [I feel] discriminated against, for lack of a better word.
That vaccine passports would be a thing is entirely predictable, so our Government should have made sure any they purchased would be recognised for travel everywhere.
How can you tell which vaccine you received?
The Indian-made vaccines that were distributed in the UK were still under the name of AstraZeneca, so how can you tell if your vaccine was produced in India? By looking at the batch number which is found on your vaccination card and also the COVID travel pass on the NHS App.
An agreement between AstraZeneca and UK regulator MHRA identifies the Indian-manufactured vaccine with these three batch numbers: 4120Z001, 4120Z002, and 4120Z003.
After news broke out that Covishield was not included in the EU's scheme, the government of India also said that those holding an EU vaccine pass would have a quarantine imposed on them upon arrival in the subcontinent.
As of today, several EU countries have approved India’s vaccines for travellers including Spain, Greece, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia.