Indian nationals who have been vaccinated with the indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, will no longer be exempted from travelling to Saudi Arabia. This comes in as a huge sigh of relief for Indians who work in the country or seek to visit it soon. By Eshita Srinivas
The Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia took to Twitter to announce that the country had added Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin to the list of approved COVID-19 vaccines. Indian nationals who have received both doses of the vaccine can now head to the country without any restrictions. Residents will need to upload their vaccination certificates on the official website of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, while visitors will need to register on the Muqeem website. Until this recent update, only Covishield was approved for Indians, according to a report by The Siasat Daily.
Embassy is pleased to inform that Indian nationals vaccinated with ‘Covaxin’ are now approved to enter the Kingdom. Vaccine certificates are to be uploaded at https://t.co/6HfYIyq7K1 for residents and at https://t.co/WeJ3Kc9GX9 for visitors.@SaudiMOH @MEAIndia
— India in Saudi Arabia (@IndianEmbRiyadh) December 20, 2021
The decision by Saudi Arabia comes in after WHO approved Covaxin for emergency use
🆕 WHO has granted emergency use listing (EUL) to #COVAXIN® (developed by Bharat Biotech), adding to a growing portfolio of vaccines validated by WHO for the prevention of #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/dp2A1knGtT
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) November 3, 2021
The move to approve Covaxin comes in after the World Health Organisation approved of it for emergency use last month. At the moment, several countries including the USA, UK, Switzerland, Australia, Sri Lanka, and Greece have recognised Covaxin.
Post recognition by the World Health Organization last month, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had launched a series of diplomatic initiatives to expand the list of countries that authorised Covaxin to make travel easier for Indians. Part of this was the proposal of mutual recognition of COVID-19 certificates at the G20 Summit, which was held in Rome in October 2021. Addressing the media then, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla had said, “Issue of vaccination certificates was discussed especially with EU representatives. There was a conversation on mutual recognition of vaccines…a doable mechanism to facilitate easier international travel… Details will be worked out bilaterally,” according to a report by the Economic Times.
Saudi Arabia only recently lifted its ban on Indian citizens
Embassy is pleased to announce that Saudi Authorities have recognised the equivalence of Covishield vaccine in India to the Astra Zeneca vaccine which is approved by Saudi authorities.
— India in Saudi Arabia (@IndianEmbRiyadh) June 6, 2021
In July this year, Saudi Arabia had stated, in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, the kingdom would place a three-year travel ban on countries that were on its red list, which included India. However, a few months later, the country recognised the Serum Institute of India’s Covishield as an approved COVID-19 vaccine without the need for the otherwise mandatory 5-day institutional quarantine, according to a report by the Indian Express.
With the current update on vaccine requirements, Covaxin has joined the list of other approved vaccines in Saudi Arabia, namely Pfizer BioNTech, Comirnaty, Oxford AstraZeneca (and Covishield), SK Bioscience, Vaxzevria, Moderna, Spikevax and Johnson & Johnson, according to a report by News 18. Covaxin is India’s first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine with a 78% vaccine efficacy.