The European Medicines Agency made headlines on Monday by not approving the India-produced Astrazeneca vaccine Covishield for the green pass, despite approving its United Kingdom-made counterpart Vaxzevria.
Before the pandemic, one of the most striking aspects of a Schengen visa was the ability to move around freely - as part of the Schengen agreement, 26 European countries had abolished border control of any type, beginning in 1985. This agreement was for the benefit of all EU nationals, and non-EU visitors in the region.
The pandemic saw, for the first time in decades, borders being closed and border controls being set up between most EU countries, with attempts at preventing the infection from coming in.
Now, after more than a year of travel restrictions, the EU is about to launch a Digital Green Pass that will certify its holders as 'healthy', and allow them to move around in Schengen countries without COVID-19 screening and mandatory quarantines.
The EMA's decision to exclude Covishield from the list has enraged many who had availed the vaccine due to AstraZeneca getting an approval from the WHO. Currently, Covishield is the only WHO-approved vaccine available to Indians.
While there has been no official statement by the government on this, Adar Poonawalla - the founder of Serum Institute of India that is manufacturing Covishield, assured those taking the vaccine that he shall push for its approval.I realise that a lot of Indians who have taken COVISHIELD are facing issues with travel to the E.U., I assure everyone, I have taken this up at the highest levels and hope to resolve this matter soon, both with regulators and at a diplomatic level with countries.— Adar Poonawalla (@adarpoonawalla) June 28, 2021
Many took to Twitter to express their discontentment at the dual treatment by EMA towards AstraZeneca vaccines due to their countries of production.Shocking that the EU green pass includes UK's AstraZeneca but not COVISHIELD! Needless formality that SII has to specially apply considering the two are literally the same.— Dr. Arvinder Singh Soin (@ArvinderSoin) June 28, 2021
What Is the Digital Green Pass?
According to EU's Europa website, a Digital Green Pass or Certificate "will be a proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from COVID-19 that can be used across all EU Member States."
The pass has been made by the EU in an effort to re-start the freedom of movement that was once enjoyed by EU residents and visitors.
Travel restrictions such as entry bans, mandatory quarantines and COVID-19 tests on arrival shall no longer apply to travellers carrying the green pass.
How Can One Obtain A Green Pass?
There are currently three ways to obtain a green pass:
1. Get fully vaccinated with one of the EMA approved vaccines, and obtain a COVID-19 vaccine passport.
2. Show a COVID-19 recovery report less than 11 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
3. Show a negative test report, or an antibodies test.
The pass or certificate will be provided by hospitals, test centres and health authorities in participating countries.
Which Vaccines Are Approved For Vaccine Passport?
The EU COVID-19 Vaccine Passport will be provided to all those who have been fully vaccinated with the following vaccines:
1. Comirnaty (BioNTech, Pfizer)
3. Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca, Oxford)
4. Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
Where Would They Accept The Digital Green Pass?
The Green Pass system is officially set to launch for all 27 EU member states from July 1. However, in seven EU countries - Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, and Poland - the feature went live early-June.
By end of July, most EU countries, along with the countries that are a part of the European Free Trade Agreement - Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland - will accept the certificate.
Editor's Note: The story has been updated to correct the full form of EMA.
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