Media is buzzing with news about the approval (or lack of) of the indigenously-made COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, by World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use, and its subsequent impact on travelling internationally. Here’s what it actually means. By Bayar Jain
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According to a report by Times of India, vaccinated travellers who have taken both the shots of Covaxin may face difficulty in travelling internationally. The reason for this, the report states, is owing to Covaxin’s lack of clearance by WHO’s Emergency Use Listing Procedure (EUL).
However, according to WHO, Bharat Biotech—the manufacturers of Covaxin—has submitted an Expression of Interest (EOI), which has been accepted while more clarifications are requested by the organisation. The international health agency has further added that a pre-submission meeting for the EOI is planned for May or June. Speaking to The Hindu about the matter, an official source has been quoted as saying the process of getting onto the WHO list is underway, with efforts being made to expedite the process.
Notably, Serum Institute of India’s Covishield has completed all these steps, and received clearance of emergency use. Pfizer, AstraZaneca, Sinopharm, and Moderna vaccines have also received clearance. Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine has been cleared in the USA and Netherlands, while its worldwide clearance is pending.
Why does WHO’s clearance matter?
Currently, countries around the world have been undertaking nationalised immunisation processes using different vaccines. As per the organisation’s official website, with the WHO pre-qualification assessment (PQ), the list aims to assure compliance of safety, efficacy, good manufacturing practice, and operational and packaging guidelines. Moreover, a spot on the list assures that a particular vaccine is safe and effective for different countries and populations.
What does this mean for international travellers?
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With WHO regarded as an expert on public health, getting recognised by the authorities gives comfort to various nations about a vaccine’s efficacy. Currently, people inoculated by both the doses of Covishield may be accepted to many countries (although the same has not been explicitly announced yet), the same is not the case for people jabbed by Covaxin. However, this is only applicable for people travelling overseas from India in the coming months as Bharat Biotech’s vaccine is still undergoing the clearance procedure, and could get accepted in the near future.
Having said that, a fully vaccinated traveller will still be required to adhere to COVID-19 protocols and guidelines as mandated by the destination country. Which means, one may be required to quarantine irrespective of the vaccine taken. Moreover, some countries might still allow travellers who have taken Covaxin, but the same differs from country to country.
Editor’s Note: Keeping the current situation of the pandemic in mind, T+L India recommends every reader to stay safe, and take all government-regulated precautions in case travel at this time is absolutely necessary. Please follow our stories on COVID-19 for all the latest travel guidelines.